New study shows sinus surgery can improve chronic fatigue

10/06/04

A review of published medical literature shows that a common sinus surgery can help people suffering from chronic fatigue caused by sinusitis. The results were presented today at the seventh International Conference on Chronic Fatigue in Madison, Wisconsin.

"The entire body of available medical literature points to the same conclusion: functional endoscopic sinus surgery reduces the chronic fatigue of sinusitis," said Alexander C. Chester, MD, clinical professor of medicine at Georgetown University Medical Center.

Chester analyzed the 11 available published scientific studies conducted on functional endoscopic sinus surgery in relieving fatigue. All 11 studies, including two from Harvard, demonstrated statistically significant decreased rates of fatigue post-surgery.

"Knowing there is a documented relationship between sinusitis and chronic fatigue, it seemed important to examine if sinus surgery can actually offer relief on the fatigue front," said Chester. "We need to explore the efficacy and viability of all available medical options to help those who suffer from debilitating fatigue."

The CDC approximates that 32 million people in the U.S. suffer from sinusitis; fatigue is a common symptom. For people who do not respond to medications as a treatment for their sinusitis, 80% remain fatigued, and out of these cases, fatigue is severe in over 20%. Because of persisting symptoms approximately 200,000 sinus surgeries are performed each year.

Functional endoscopic sinus surgery requires minimal cutting and is directed to a very localized area in the nose. Because the surgical area is so small, the recovery is much easier than nasal surgery of the past.

Although the procedure is expensive – approximately $4,000 including the in-patient hospitalization costs – most is usually covered by insurance. Alternatively, recent studies in the Archives of Otolaryngology Head Neck Surgery and the American Journal of Rhinology show that the medical cost for a person with chronic sinusitis without surgery is $921 per year which includes medications and physician visits. If job income loss is included, the annual cost soars to $1,539.

"In all 11 studies fatigue improved without exception and in many cases to levels considered normal," said Chester. "These findings appear universal, with similar reports noted in Germany and Turkey as well as the United States. The sustained benefits from endoscopic nasal sinus surgery suggest that it may be a worthwhile procedure for many patients with chronic sinusitis. People who are not getting better with medications alone should consult their ear, nose and throat doctor to consider alternatives including surgery."

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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