What are the risks of sinus surgery

Sinus surgery is generally a very safe successful procedure, resulting in significant improvement in symptoms and quality of life. Fortunately, adverse events during or after surgery are unusual. However, as with any procedure, there are risks that you should know about and consider prior to surgery. Please do not hesitate to ask your surgeon about any of these risks if you have any questions or concerns.

  • Fortunately the risk of significant bleeding during surgery is small (less than 1%). Blood transfusions are rarely necessary. If significant bleeding occurs, the procedure may need to be stopped, nasal packing may need to be placed, and a blood transfusion may be necessary.

    A small amount of nasal bleeding is typical during the first few days following surgery. Excessive bleeding following surgery may require a visit to the emergency room and additional measures to stop bleeding.

  • Chronic sinusitis tends to be a continual medical problem, and sinus infections can occur in the post-operative period or even months or years after surgery. In the presence of a sinus infection, there is a small risk of developing a more complicated infection like an abscess or meningitis.

  • All operations in the sinuses and nose carry a rare chance (about 0.1%) of creating a leak of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). CSF is the fluid that surrounds the brain. Should this rare complication occur, it creates the potential pathway for infection, which could result in meningitis (inflammation around the brain) or brain damage. CSF leaks are typically repaired at the time of sinus surgery and require hospitalization after surgery for observation.

  • Although extremely rare (about 0.07%), there are occasional reports of visual loss after sinus surgery. Temporary or prolonged double vision has also rarely been reported. Excessive tearing of the eyes may result if a portion of the tear duct is affected by sinus surgery.

  • Scarring occurs after any surgery. If sinus surgery is done efficiently and proper postoperative instructions are followed, the risk is minimal. If significant scarring occurs, it can close off the sinuses and revision surgery may be needed to re-open them.

  • These symptoms can occur after sinus surgery and usually indicate an ongoing problem in the nose/sinuses and may require further treatment.

  • As with any case using general anesthesia, there are rare but possibly serious risks involved. Adverse reactions to general anesthesia may be further discussed with the anesthesiologist.

  • If nasal septal reconstruction or septoplasty is performed, you could experience numbness of the front teeth, bleeding or infection in the septum, or a septal perforation. A perforation is a hole through the septum, which may cause difficulty breathing through the nose or crusting. Since the cartilage in the septum has "memory," it may shift postoperatively and result in a renewed deviation. There is also a small chance that the shape of the nose may change.

  • Permanent loss or decrease in the sense of smell occasionally occurs following sinus surgery. However, in many patients, sense of smell is already decreased prior to surgery and generally improves with surgical intervention (although this is not guaranteed).

  • Sinuses affect resonance, so vocal professionals should be aware of potential changes in their voice after sinus surgery.


Other risks of sinus surgery include:

  • Temporary numbness or discomfort in the upper front teeth
  • Temporary swelling
  • Temporary bruising
  • Temporary numbness of the upper lip
  • Temporary swelling or bruising around the eyes