Updated on 12/28/2016
Published on May 23, 2013
I documented my sinus surgery recovery experience for anyone who has to get a similar procedure or surgery done. This will allow them to get an idea of the entire process and recovery period.
I was constantly blowing my nose and felt stuffy all of the time. I finally made an appointment with an Ears, Nose, and Throat Doctor. As I had believed, there were a number of problems and the solution proposed was surgery. I was also given the option for an in office “Balloon Sinuplasty”, but I did not want to take the risk of it not being effective. At the time, it was a new procedure. I passed on the Balloon Sinuplasty and chose to go with the more “complete” surgery.
The following is a description of my proposed services, when I underwent surgery on May 22, 2013:
The morning of the surgery
I was told to be at the surgery center by 6:00 AM, so that morning I woke up at 5:00 AM. After I arrived, I was given a stack of 20 papers to initial in case an accident were to occur and this made me nervous.
The reality of what was moments away worried me, but I concentrated on my new “sinus free problem” life that was promised to me. As I was sitting down with my family, I finally heard my name called by the nurse. It was time to walk inside the operation room. When I sat down, the doctor asked me if I had drank any fluids.
As I told him I had drank a glass of water in the morning, a look of disappointment swept his face. I had forgotten I was not supposed to drink absolutely anything a few hours prior to the surgery. He told me they would have to now stick a tube down my throat to prevent complications. I was amazed how much of an issue my morning glass of water turned out to be.
The surgery starts
I went under general anesthesia. As it was being administered, I was asked to count down from 10. The anesthesia began to make me incredibly sleepy, so it was hard to keep my eyes open as I counted down. As my eyelids started to feel heavier, it became harder to keep them open. It suddenly felt as if I closed them for a few seconds, but when I opened them the surgery was over.
The hours the surgery took felt like a few seconds. When someone asks me to describe how general anesthesia feels, I always say that it feels as if someone turned off the lights then immediately flicked them back on. You lose all track of time.
The first things I noticed
When I awoke, I felt my face was very swollen. When I tried to speak, a horrible burning sensation rushed down my throat. I was surprised because it was more bothersome than any pain I felt coming from my nose. It was explained to me that this burning was due to being intubated by a tube that was pushed down my throat during surgery. Again, this was the consequence of me drinking a glass of water that morning as I was not supposed to have any fluids.
My nose had two thin pieces of absorbent gauze stuffed up each nostril. I was told they would be removed, along with a few stitches, during my follow-up visit two days later. I had a much larger blob of gauze taped over my entire nose, which covered the smaller gauze stuffed in each nostril. I was told that I would have to change this larger piece of gauze every few hours. The purpose of the larger piece of gauze was to absorb any random bleeding that was expected to leak throughout the recovery period.
On a pain scale of 1-10 (10 being the worst), the pain in my throat was an 8, and my nose was a 5. After the surgery, I was prescribed a painkiller and an antibiotic, which is probably why the pain coming from my nose was not as painful as I thought it would be.
Since my nose was filled and covered with gauze, I was only able to breathe through my mouth. This avoidance of using my nose also contributed to feeling the least amount of pain since it was allowed to heal without much irritation. I was not able to avoid using my throat since it would be constantly irritated every time I would speak, eat, and drink.
Sinus surgery recovery
After the surgery, I was under observation for an hour and a half, but in total, I was in the hospital from 6:00 AM till 1:30 PM. The doctor advised that I try to only breathe through my mouth, not my nose, during the first day of recovery.
When I arrived back home, it was difficult to stay awake. I was in and out of sleep, due to the medications, anesthesia, and stress my body experienced from the multiple procedures.
I had to use a lot of pillows to prop myself in an upright position in bed. This was to avoid laying flat. I did not want to lay flat since that would cause any blood in my nostrils to build up. My nose had begun the expected discharges of blood which the large gauze was absorbing. This was a good thing since you want your body to start scabbing any open wounds inside of the nostrils. It just takes a lot longer than usual, since the nose is a naturally humid and wet environment.
Every few hours I would have to remove the medical tape that was holding the gauze onto my face, and replace it with a large clean piece. This was not painful, It was just a little shocking when I noticed the quantity of blood continually being absorbed by the gauze.
I had random jolts of pain while falling asleep as I would instinctually try to breathe through my nose. I would wake up with a feeling of suffocation, because of all the gauze blocking my nostrils. Then the feeling of pain from the surgery would arrive. It would take a few minutes to subside, and I would try to go back to sleep breathing only through my mouth again.
First follow-up visit
The worst pain I have ever experienced was during my first follow-up visit. I had to return, two days after my surgery, to get the two small gauzes I had stuffed in each nostril removed. The doctor sat me down and started removing some of the stitches in my nose. That pain was very bearable.
The worse pain was the removal of the individual small gauzes I had stuffed in each nostril. One by one, the doctor had to tug and wiggle them out. Since my nose nostrils had already started to heal, the natural scabbing process had already been underway.
As he wiggled them out, they were pretty stuck to the walls of my nose. Some of the gauze was attached from the scabbing process to my nostril. Afterward, I was given a spray to use on my nose every 30 minutes for the next two weeks to speed the healing process up. This special spray was to start nasal rinses twice a day after the packing was out. I no longer had any gauze inside my nostrils, but I still kept one large piece over my nose to prevent any blood dripping that was still occurring.
I had little to no pain after two weeks. I began to gradually try to breathe through my nostrils, as the bleeding had largely subsided by then. To be completely honest, another extremely shocking thing began.
Yes, this is gross
Since my nostrils were mostly scabbed up, I had no more free flowing blood dripping. But, any blood that was not able to previously flow naturally out also scabbed up. Instead of blood dripping, large quantities of dried hard pieces of blood began randomly discharging. Unlike the previous discharges of regular dripping blood, this time I was able to know when a discharge would occur. I would randomly feel a large amount of pressure building up in one of my nostrils.
I had checked with the doctor, and this was also a normal part of the healing process. I am talking about LARGE thick pieces. I was shocked, amazed, and scared but glad when they came out because I would instantly feel a large release of pressure that had built up in my nose. I was to continue using the spray I was given during my first follow-up visit. This spray was for nasal rinses, which would help any hard clots push out of my nose on their own if they were stuck. The doctor told me to not blow my nose.
A Few Months After The Surgery
I thought my sinus surgery recovery was going really well, because I had no side effects, and had no more congestion or pain. This was truly an amazing feeling. I felt so happy to know that this surgery had such successful results for me. I felt like I could breathe for the first time in my life. I finally had nothing obstructing my breathing and I no longer found myself short of breath.
Three years after the surgery
I still believe this surgery was completely worth it and has benefited my life in a positive way.
> Have I maintained the same relief the surgery initially provided?
No, sadly I have not. I had expected some stuffiness to return because I might have minor allergies that are contributing to my congestion. I have not felt the same amount of congestion I had experienced prior to undergoing surgery. Therefore, I am satisfied with the outcome and would make the same choice again.
I have experienced two side effects. The first is some random occurrences of post nasal drip. The second is what I believe to be a spontaneous CSF leak (Read more about CSF leaks HERE). I would have to collect a sample for the doctor, to confirm my suspicions, as of now this “CSF leak” is my own unreliable self-diagnosis.