Endoscopic Sinus Surgery

This webpage will give you information about endoscopic sinus surgery. Nasal endoscopy is a procedure to look at the nasal and sinus passages.

If you have any questions, you should ask your GP or other relevant health professional.

What is sinusitis?

The sinuses are air-filled spaces at the front of the skull, between the eyes and above the upper jaw, that are connected to the inside of your nose (see figure 1).

The sinuses - The sphenoid sinus is set back towards the centre of your head

 Figure 1 - The sinuses, The sphenoid sinus is set back towards the centre of your head.

 Sinusitis is an infection of the mucous membrane that lines the sinuses. It causes symptoms of pain, a blocked nose, discharge, reduced sense of smell and the feeling of mucus at the back of your nose or throat.


What are the benefits of surgery?

The aim of surgery is to widen the passage between the sinus and your nose so that mucus no longer becomes trapped. This should prevent the sinusitis from coming back. However, your sense of smell may not improve.

Are there any alternatives to surgery?

Antibiotics may help to clear the infection.

 If your sinusitis is caused by an allergy, you may be able to prevent sinusitis by avoiding the ‘triggers’ of your allergy or by taking medication, such as antihistamines.

 If you use a nasal steroid spray for a long time, you can reduce the size of polyps (small growths).

What does the operation involve?

Endoscopic sinus surgery is usually performed under a general anaesthetic but a local anaesthetic can be used. The operation usually takes between one and two hours.

The operation is performed through your nose and does not result in any facial scars or change to the outside shape of your nose.

Your surgeon will use an endoscope to examine your nasal passages. They will use instruments to remove any polyps and to widen the passages from your sinuses into your nose.

What complications can happen?

1 General complications

  • Pain
  • Bleeding
  • Infection of the surgical site (wound)
  • Blood clots

2 Specific complications

  • Damage to the bone around your eye
  • Blindness
  • Leak of fluid from the brain

How soon will I recover?

The packing in your nose will usually be removed the day after your operation. You should be able to go home later on that day.

 You should not blow your nose for at least a week after the operation. Your nose will continue to feel blocked for quite a few weeks.

Your surgeon will prescribe a nasal spray or drops for you to use and you may be given a course of antibiotics to reduce the risk of infection.

 Regular exercise should help you to return to normal activities as soon as possible. Before you start exercising, you should ask a member of the healthcare team or your GP for advice.


Sinusitis is not serious but it can cause unpleasant symptoms. If medication does not help, endoscopic sinus surgery should prevent the sinusitis from coming back.


Author: Miss Ruth Capper MD FRCS (ORL-HNS)

Illustrations: Hannah Ravenscroft RM

This document is intended for information purposes only and should not replace advice that your relevant health professional would give you.

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