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Sinus surgery can range anywhere from a minor procedure done under local anesthesia, to a fairly extensive operation. Fortunately, even extensive sinus surgery doesn't usually entail a particularly lengthy or painful recovery.
Recovery times vary from patient to patient, often for reasons unclear. Here are some thoughts to help you decide how long you might need to take off of your usual activities.
One important issue after any surgery is determining when it is safe to drive. It is almost never considered safe to drive on the same day as general anesthesia. It is also not safe to drive if you have recently taken narcotic pain medicines. With the exception of these two issues, sinus and nasal surgery patients can drive as soon as they feel able. Often that will be the day after surgery for more minor procedures and in 2 or 3 days for more extensive nasal procedures.
I consider minor sinus surgery as:
Such patients generally do very well. Many people could go back to work the day after such a procedure. At the most, patients will take 3 or 4 days off of work.
- Patients without prominent inflammation, ie no polyps, fungus, or active infection.
- Patients only have sinus procedures and do not need a septoplasty and do not need packing
- Can include minor septoplasty done with endoscope and some turbinate reductions
- Balloon sinuplasty patients are usually have an easy recovery
The most consistent post-operative issue would be bloody drainage. Almost everyone has a significant amount of bloody mucous drainage down the back of the throat. This worst is during the first two nights and it slowly resolves over a week or two.
Pain after such a procedure is usually mild or often there is no pain. One common experience is that patients who had headaches as part of their sinus problems will often have headaches as they recover, even if the procedure will help the headaches eventually. Patients who had little or no pre-operative headache or sinus pain typically have little or no post-operative sinus pain. Pain medicine is generally prescribed after such procedures, but it is not always needed.
The next level of recovery comes in patients who have a bit more work done:
Patients with packing or who had a some inflammatory process at the time of surgery will need a little longer to recover. There is still not usually much pain from even extensive sinus surgery, but if a full septoplasty is performed, there is usually some post-operative pain.
- Patients who need a full septoplasty and possibly packing
- Patients who need a large portion of the turbinate removed
- Patients who have significant inflammation at the time of surgery
- Patients with cysts and polyps in the maxillary sinus
Patients who have had significant nasal and sinus surgery with packing can expect to be off of work for 4 to 7 days. Some people can go back to work the day after the packing is removed (on post op day 1, 2, or 3), but this varies considerably.
The easy part of the recovery only begins once the packing is removed. While the packing is in, patients are relatively miserable. You can't breath well through your nose, there is a pressure feeling, and there are large amounts of drainage. Sometimes patients get a headache but not always. When your nose is so congested, it often feels better to sleep sitting up, once the packing is removed, everything gets better quickly. Bloody drainage continues for weeks.
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