COLUMBUS, OH. — This is often the worst time of year for sinus infections. Between things like viruses and indoor allergies, 37 million people will suffer a sinus infection this year. For some, it’s a chronic problem, and while surgery may be necessary, it’s not always easy. Complications from sinus surgery can be severe and permanent. To cut down on those risks, scientists are using 3–D computer modeling to know the outcome of a patient’s operation before they ever go under the knife. ABC 10’s Sarah Mac reports.
For years, Brian Kirk has cooked dinner for his family but missed out on all the savory smells that fill the kitchen.
Brian had chronic sinus problems – and whether he was cooking, running or sleeping, he struggled to breathe.
Brian Kirk says, “It was pretty bad, the doctor said I don’t really know how you’re able to breathe the way you do, but I guess your body kind of finds a way.”
Eventually, Brian underwent surgery to clear his sinuses – a procedure that takes place about every 40 seconds in the U.S. And while it’s common, sinus surgery is often very complex.
Dr. Alex Farag says, “It is high price real estate, the sinuses are surrounded by the brain and the eyes and so you have to be very, very precise within millimeters”
Though long–term complications of sinus surgery are extremely rare, they can be severe and include loss of smell or taste, nerve damage and empty nose syndrome, where the air passages are wide open but patients constantly feel congested. To try and eliminate complications, researchers at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center are designing 3–D customized models.
Kai Zhao is an engineer and medical researcher who’s using computational fluid dynamics to develop novel software, so doctors can test the outcome of a patient’s sinus surgery before stepping into the O.R.
Kai Zhao, Ph.D. says, “Like playing a video game – to remove some of the tissues and then we can back compute what is this effect on the nasal airflow.”
Dr. Farag added, “We also use CT navigation, which is like GPS for your head. It allows us to be within a fraction of a millimeter in terms of accuracy.”
The team will also analyze 3–D printed models of the patient’s sinus cavity to give doctors even more detail before surgery – because patients have to live with the results forever after.
Information courtesy of Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center