Image-Guided Sinus Surgery


Image-guided surgery is widely considered to have many practical applications for patients.

Nearly 40 million Americans suffer from sinusitis each year. Oftentimes, sinus-related problems like this can be managed successfully with medications. However, there are times when symptoms are so severe or disruptive to quality of life that surgery becomes an option.

The good news is that many of the procedures performed today involve techniques that are less invasive. Another innovation patients can benefit from is image-guided sinus surgery.


How Does Image-Guided Sinus Surgery Work?

During the procedure, information from a CT scan or MRI of the sinuses is used to provide additional guidance for the doctor. The images captured from the affected area are used to produce a 3D visualization of the sinuses. The detailed images allow the doctor to precisely pinpoint the affected sinuses. Because some sinuses can be close to eyes or the brain, this added precision can improve patient safety.

Image-guided surgery can be done with a system that uses infrared sensors and light reflectors attracted the patient’s head. Another option is to perform sinus surgery with a system that uses electromagnetic fields as reference points. With this system, a wired instrument is used to reach the affected sinus cavity through the nose. Image guidance can be combined with endoscopic techniques to improve visualization in a way that’s also less invasive.

What Types of Sinus Problems May Be Treated?

Image-guided sinus surgery can be done to correct many possible sources of sinus blockage or irritation. With some procedures, small bones around the opening to the sinuses may be removed to restore sufficient airflow and drainage. Sinus surgery with image guidance may also be done to:

  • Remove diseased tissue within the sinus cavities
  • Take out nasal polyps responsible for sinus blockages
  • Remove other obstructions affecting sinuses

When Is Image Guided Sinus Surgery Recommended?

Surgery with added image guidance from a CT scan or MRI may be recommended when incisions need to be made close to important structures or critical blood vessels. In some cases, image-guided sinus surgery may be suggested if the anatomy of the sinuses was distorted or altered during previous surgery.

What Are the Benefits of Image Guidance?

Image guidance technology can improve the safety and overall effectiveness of traditional endoscopic surgical procedures that may be performed on patients with sinus conditions. The 3D images also allow the surgeon to avoid unintended damage to nerves and blood vessels while removing sinus obstructions or creating more space for sinus passageways. For example, image-guided surgery involving the sphenoid sinuses behind the eyes can reduce the risk of damaging the optic nerve during surgery.

Image-guided surgery technology can also be used by ENT doctors to perform other procedures where precise navigation is needed, such as endoscopic skull base procedures. If patients are not ideal candidates, additional options include the use of a small balloon to clear sinus passages (balloon sinuplasty) and traditional endoscopic procedures.