She may live in New York, but Tama Gallagher shares a common problem with many people right here in our area.
“I have had constant sinus infections for the last two years. I’ve constantly been on antibiotics and steroids,” Gallagher said. “Basically, my sinuses just could not drain because they were so swollen.”
Like millions of Americans, Gallagher has battled chronic sinusitis – a condition that results in nearly 20 million physician office visits and more than $8 billion in healthcare costs each year. And like a lot of sufferers, Gallagher was reluctant to have traditional sinus surgery.
“My doctor in New York suggested that I look into getting balloon sinuplasty,” Gallagher explained. “My insurance is based out of a company in Georgia, and is underwritten by a different company in New York that wouldn’t pay for the procedure. However, my doctor told me that my insurance would cover it in another state. My mother lives in Maryville, and she recommended [otolaryngologist] Dr. Bryan Tigner. I called him, sent him my records and discussed it with him. My insurance approved the procedure in Maryville, and I drove down to see Dr. Tigner to get the surgery,” she said.
While balloon sinuplasty technically is considered surgery, it’s really surgery in name only. The minimally invasive procedure is done on an outpatient basis, and involves inserting and inflating a tiny balloon inside the nasal cavity to create microfractures that reshape the sinus opening. The entire procedure can be completed in about a half hour, is virtually painless and has an extremely low recovery time.
“What separates balloon sinuplasty from traditional sinus surgery is that it does not involve the removal of tissue, which allows the body’s natural function to heal itself,” said Blount Memorial otolaryngologist Dr. Bryan Tigner. “We use a small camera and a seeker device. We insert a portion of the seeker into the nose, and gently deploy the guide wire with a light on the tip. That guide wire lets us know we’re in the sinus by illuminating it. Once there, we gently deploy a deflated balloon, and slowly inflate it. The balloon is so strong that it causes little microfractures as it inflates that permanently remodel the sinus opening and reestablish flow,” he explained. “Then, we deflate the balloon and remove the entire apparatus so that nothing stays inside the nose,” he added.
Gallagher had her balloon sinuplasty procedure on Friday, Nov. 6. “It’s miraculous,” she said. “You feel pressure, but there’s no pain. You’re awake the entire time, and it only took about 30 minutes. Up until that time, my sinuses were constantly inflamed due to allergies, and I couldn’t breathe. Now, I feel like I can breathe better, I don’t have the pressure and drainage. I feel like a new person. There was zero recovery time. I had it done on that Friday, and I went shopping that afternoon,” she said.
Tigner says there are some people who make better candidates for balloon sinuplasty than others. “Not everybody with one or two sinus infections each year will be a candidate for this,” he said. “There is some screening that goes into this beforehand. There are two classes of patients who make good candidates for balloon sinuplasty – those patients who suffer from chronic sinusitis that persists for 12 weeks or longer, and those patients who experience recurrent acute sinusitis that arises four or more times a year. Patients who have nasal congestion, nasal blockages, discolored nasal drainage, cough, headaches and facial pressure are great patients for evaluation,” he explained. “We all have friends who get sinus infections, get on antibiotics and get better. Then, they have another sinus infection two or three weeks later, and they get on the same cycle again. Balloon sinuplasty interrupts that cycle,” he added.
“The benefits were just immediate,” Gallagher said. “To me, it’s just amazing that they’ve come up with something like this for people with sinus issues. I highly recommend this surgery for anybody with constant, chronic allergies and sinus infections. Everyone was so nice, and Dr. Tigner is just the best. I wish he was here in New York,” she said.
While Tigner’s career hasn’t taken him to New York just yet, he has spent time with two large hospital systems in the Atlanta area and says his current job is just as medically advanced as his last two. “There’s nothing I had while practicing in Atlanta that I don’t have here,” said Tigner. “The perception is that you have to go to the next-largest city to get state-of-the-art care. Blount Memorial has made it so that you can get the same state-of-the-art healthcare that you could get in, say Atlanta, right here. It’s excellent care and cutting-edge medicine with the convenience of staying at home,” he added.
Dr. Tigner practices with Dr. Robert Adham and Dr. Bond Almand at Foothills ENT Allergy and Hearing Center (formerly the Otolaryngology Center of East Tennessee), located at 275 Cherokee Professional Park in Maryville. For more information about balloon sinuplasty or to set up an evaluation, call 865-983-4090.