Help me make this suck less
March 19, 2012 9:21 AM   Subscribe

I've got sinus surgery scheduled for the middle of the week. What do I need to have on hand or do to be completely prepared?

After months of sinus pain and an irritating cough from goo draining down my throat, I went to an ENT for treatment. He put me on a nasal steroid, sinus rinse regimen (Neil-Med) and three weeks of Augmentin, but my maxillary sinuses are still an issue per CT scan.

So, I'm caving and getting the surgery. It's outpatient, and the doctor said that I only needed to take three days off work. I've got a pantry full of soup, a stack of brain-candy paperback novels and my jammies ready. I've talked to my four-year-old twin sons about how they'll need to be gentle with mommy for a couple of weeks after. My husband has the surgery day off work and is prepared to take my anesthesia ridden self home after the operation. Today I'll go shopping to buy the saline nasal spray that I'm supposed to use to keep the packing moist post-surgery.

What am I forgetting? Please give me your advise on how to make the recovery period as easy as possible.
posted by terrierhead to Health & Fitness (18 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I'm not sure this is just the same thing, but I had open rhinoplasty and the main thing was just to take the meds the doctor gives and sit still. The worst part for me was the period about a week after surgery when I had trouble breathing well through my nose-- lasted only about 5 days but it freaked me out a little bit. So you may have to just not over-exert yourself while you're healing-- standard stuff.
posted by devymetal at 9:24 AM on March 19, 2012

I don't know anything about sinus surgery, but after jaw surgery that caused an enormous amount of swelling and nasal congestion, I humidifier was seriously helpful. When that wasn't enough, sitting in the bathroom with a hot shower running helped. (Be sure to sit! the steam also made me lightheaded!)
posted by i_am_a_fiesta at 9:45 AM on March 19, 2012

Best answer: I had this done a few years back.

You are not going to be able to sons for several weeks. They're too heavy. The rule of thumb is that you can't pick up anything heavier than a milk jug. They aren't kidding. You are, all things considered, going to spend a lot of time lying down. Your sons are just going to have to deal, because even mild exertion can send your blood pressure up,* which can lead to rupturing your scabs etc.

Eating isn't going to be that big of a deal, though you may find that cold things feel better than hot. You aren't going to be running food past the surgical site unless you deliberately stick it up your nose, but even so, soup may not be the best bet. But it isn't like tonsil surgery, where the surgical site is implicated by eating as such. This stuff is way up in there.

Also, three days off work seems quite optimistic. I had a follow-up visit several weeks after the surgery, and though I was okay by then, I'd be prepared to take off a whole week. You may, in fact, be able to get things done in that time, but you may not.

*This is healthy, in and of itself.
posted by valkyryn at 9:54 AM on March 19, 2012

*Able to hold your sons. Edit window!
posted by valkyryn at 9:54 AM on March 19, 2012

GET A SECOND OPINION. I had the same thing you have, went to an ENT who told me I needed turbinate reduction, balloon sinuplasty, etc. I went and found the best ENT in town, he looked at my scans, and said the other ENT is known in this city as a quack who performs unnecessary surgery and that my scans looked fine.

He referred me to an allergist, and lo and behold I have severe allergies to dust mites, which was causing all these problems that can be fixed with immunotherapy.

Do yourself a favor: get your CT scans and take them to another ENT. Better yet, get an appointment with an allergist first.
posted by PSB at 10:05 AM on March 19, 2012

Best answer: The best advice I can give is simply to keep your sense of humor. I've worked with lots of patients in the few days following their sinus surgery, and they seem to fall into 2 camps: the ones who can shrug and laugh off how miserable they are, and the ones who feel like everything is ruined forever because they're so miserable. I've also worked with a fair number of people who had sinus surgery in the distant past, and every single one of them talks about how it was the worst 3 (sometimes up to 5) days of their life, but they felt sooo much better afterward. So expect to feel crappy for a little while, but trust that you'll get through it and things will get good again.
posted by vytae at 10:07 AM on March 19, 2012

Do you have someone taking care of your sons for the weekdays after your surgery? I'm willing to bet that you will be surprised at how seriously surgery and healing knocks down your energy levels. I wouldn't try to take care of your children on your own even after a couple days. Is someone going to be staying with you during the workday? Even better, can the boys stay with someone else at another location? Let them come visit for a bit so they know that you're ok if you want, but I'd focus on self-care for those first few days.
posted by runningwithscissors at 10:25 AM on March 19, 2012

If possible, have the husband home for the entire recovery period. The toughest part isn't the surgery day, it's the 2-3 days after. You will need help corralling the kids - it's not going to be business as usual, and you really want to have an extra pair of hands to help out.

Good luck!
posted by Citrus at 10:37 AM on March 19, 2012

Just chiming in to speak to PSB's comment - I don't know your allergy history, but my spouse's ENT would not do the operation until immunotherapy and less invasive treatments had been exhausted. It was also a laser procedure, and there wasn't "packing" but this goo stuff that is made of platelets - so if you're going to have gauze snatched out of your face, I'd make sure you try to find another doctor. My mom had that and between the two it seems the goo method is much more modern and much less painful. AND your body just releases the goo-bits when it's ready, which is much better than arbitrarily snatching it out.

Other than that, just take it easy, and take your meds. Use the saline rinse, and follow the post-op directions. If you do have the goo, there will be a time when you will, one way or another, expel a huge chunk of it, and you will think it's your brain. It's not. You're fine.
posted by Medieval Maven at 10:40 AM on March 19, 2012

Be prepared for the possibility that your stomach may feel queasy after the surgery. Have on hand some of whatever beverage you find soothing for nausea -- ginger ale, cola, peppermint +/or ginger tea.
posted by Corvid at 11:30 AM on March 19, 2012

I had two sinus surgeries in less than a year - both outpatient. They may have been more invasive (involved some reconstruction) so my recovery time was a bit more than a week. Have your "area" at home all set up before you go. Mine involved a recliner chair (had to sleep sitting up for several days). It helped with the drainage, pressure feeling and breathing. A high enough table next to it that did not require bending down or forward (feels terrible on the nose and face for a few days). The table had my meds, water bottle, kleenex box, saline, gauze pads, ice packs, phone and remotes on it.

Reading made my head hurt, so I watched a lot of tv (caught up on Mad Men, and HBO shows!). My kids were teens so they weren't an issue, but you do have to be careful for weeks afterward. Accidental bumps are not good. I was terrified to sleep in bed with my husband for a while!

As for food, not much was appealing without my sense of smell for a few days, plus the meds, plus it hurt to chew. So stock up on soft foods (eggs, soups, pudding). Also I couldn't drink out of a cup well, so I needed straws. A lot of breathing through your mouth also makes you need lots of water for a few days.

Best wishes for a fast recovery!
posted by maxg94 at 11:37 AM on March 19, 2012

Chiming in to reiterate what PSB said -- get the allergy workup before surgery. I endured months of sinus misery while on the surgery trajectory before I found out that I was allergic to dust mites. Two months of ramp-up shots later (fun!) in conjunction with a daily regimen of NeilMed, and things had settled down to the point that I could resume a normal life.

Of course, not everyone responds to allergy shots, but if you do, it can feel like you dodged a bullet. I especially remember reading about people with cavernous sinuses that still felt "plugged" due to a reverse effect of not having enough air pressure touching the sinus walls. With my father's mixed sinus surgery results factored in, I am glad that I have been able to put it off with allergy shots thus far. Attack the thing that's causing all of the goo before making more space for the goo to flow.
posted by hobu at 12:32 PM on March 19, 2012

Get a neti pot. You'll be BFF with it for a few weeks once the packing comes out.

Before your surgery, make a few cups of regular kosher canning salt (no anti-caking added) mixed with baking soda. About 1 tablespoon soda to one cup salt.

Get some distilled water, or boil some tap water and store it. My doctor recommended running a gallon or more through each nostril every day. You'll need it - It will really help get the scabs out.

If it burns, or hurts you've used too much salt in the water. I only needed about 2 tablespoons per cup of water.

The surgery itself isn't too painful, but the recovery knocked me on my ass. It took a good 4-5 weeks to get back to 100%. I should have done it far earlier though - it's been an absolute godsend.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 1:18 PM on March 19, 2012

Best answer: nthing the second opinion! I'm kind of surprised a doctor recommended it so quickly, but IANAD.

I had a turbinate reduction, septoplasty, polyp and adenoid removal a few years back--and all my symptoms began when I fractured my nose. I had sinus pain and recurring infections for a long time--but no ENT I saw would consider surgery until they could completely rule out allergies (I thought I had no allergies, and was annoyed to be sent for allergy testing. I was wrong, I am allergic to everything, including dust mites).

Maybe I am a wimp, but this surgery completely knocked me on my ass for days. It wasn't incredibly painful, but I was very uncomfortable. Have a chair you can comfortably sleep sitting up in, a humidifier, and some lip balm. With a packed nose your mouth and lips will get very dry, since you can't close your mouth. Food wasn't really an issue for me--without a sense of smell and my face packed full of gauze, I didn't feel like eating anyway.

My boyfriend bought me an elastic band to hold the gauze on my face for the first couple days of packing--it was much better than taping it to my skin.
posted by inertia at 1:32 PM on March 19, 2012

Get the fanciest, softest tissues with lotion you can; I like the Kleenex Lotion with aloe & vitamin E. Lotion tissues aren't going to make your nose feel better, but rough, scratchy toilet-paper tissue will make it feel worse. Saline wipes are also good.
posted by nicebookrack at 3:38 PM on March 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

I had sinus surgery a couple years ago and this saved me: get some latex gloves, the disposable kind. Fill three fingers with ice water, twist the fingers part closed, and lay them on your face, one down your nose, one on each side. This way you can ice the hurty parts without giving yourself a horrible headache from the cold. You can of course grab a few of these for free in any doctor's office, so if you're going in again before the surgery, just grab them there.
posted by fingersandtoes at 5:19 PM on March 19, 2012

Think about what you want to have on hand to drink. You're gonna be a serious mouth-breather for a while, and you'll be dry all the time. I used to think that a few bottles of diet Sprite was enough, but I got sick of it before I ran out.
posted by Gorgik at 7:15 PM on March 19, 2012

Mouth dryness was mentioned, and it was something I had experienced when I had my surgery years ago. I would buy Biotene Oral Balance Gel. It comes in a little tube, like toothpaste, you put about a half a pea sized dollup on your tongue and rub it around your mouth. It will keep things slick so you don't get your tongue glued to your cheek from dryness.
posted by Jazz Hands at 3:51 PM on March 20, 2012

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