Functional endoscopic sinus surgery (FESS) is minimally invasive surgery for serious sinus conditions. Healthcare providers use nasal endoscopes — thin tubes with lights and lens — to ease your sinus symptoms without making incisions in or around your nose. Studies show between 80 % and 90% of people who’ve had this surgery feel it solved their sinus issues.
Functional endoscopic sinus surgery (FESS) is minimally invasive surgery for serious sinus conditions. Healthcare providers use nasal endoscopes — thin tubes with lights and lenses — to ease your sinus symptoms without making incisions in or around your nose.
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Functional endoscopic sinus surgery is also called endoscopic sinus surgery. Some healthcare providers use the term “functional” because the surgery is done to restore how your sinuses work, or function.
Your healthcare provider may recommend FESS if you have chronic sinus inflammation or a chronic sinus infection that doesn’t improve with medical treatments, such as antibiotics and medications to manage allergies.
You develop sinusitis when the tissue that lines your sinuses begins to swell, trapping mucus that typically flows through your sinuses and out through your nose. The trapped fluid can grow bacteria that can cause infections. Healthcare providers may also recommend surgery if you have nasal polyps.
Your healthcare provider will review your medical history and do a physical examination. Tests they may use include:
Your healthcare provider will let you know what to do before your surgery. Every person’s situation is different, but most healthcare providers recommend the following:
FESS is the standard procedure to treat serious sinus conditions. Healthcare providers continue to refine their approach. Here’s an overview of the process:
Everyone’s situation is different, but most functional endoscopic surgeries last about two hours.
You’ll spend some time in a recovery room so your healthcare provider can monitor your condition. You won’t be able to drive after surgery, so you’ll need someone to take you home and stay with you that first night. Your healthcare provider will tell you what to expect after surgery. Here’s some general information:
All surgeries come with potential complications and risks. For the most part, FESS has relatively few complications. Your healthcare provider will tell you about potential complications, but a few you may experience include:
It can take a few months before you feel as if you’re back to normal. Most people go back to school or work in a week or so and resume their normal routine within two weeks.
FESS is the most common surgery for sinus conditions. Studies show between 80 % and 90% of people who have FESS for chronic sinusitis feel the surgery “cured” their problem. But everyone’s experience is different. Your FESS may not “solve” your sinus condition because it’s a chronic condition, but FESS can significantly ease your symptoms and limit how often your chronic sinus flares. You can help prevent recurring sinus problems by following your post-surgery care and giving your nose time to heal.
You should see your healthcare provider for follow-up visits a few weeks after your surgery so they can clean your nose and check on your progress. You may have other follow-up visits, depending on your situation.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Functional endoscopic sinus surgery (FESS) is standard surgery for chronic sinus problems that keep you from breathing with ease. Healthcare providers perform this surgery to treat chronic sinusitis and to remove nasal polyps. If you have chronic sinusitis and medical treatment hasn’t helped, ask your healthcare provider if FESS is an option.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 04/04/2022.
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