Sinus surgery treats various problems affecting the series of cavities around your nasal passages called the sinuses. There are different types, but the most common is functional endoscopic surgery.

Most people tend to think of the sinus system as the passages behind your nose, but there are also sinus cavities behind your forehead and eyes. Most people have a total of eight sinus cavities.

If sinus surgery has been recommended as an option for you, keep reading to find out what to expect.

The goal of sinus surgery is to open up the sinuses, clear away any blockages, and restore natural drainage.

Why would you have sinus surgery?

Sometimes, the sinus system faces problems such as a thickened lining, polyps (growths), or repeated infections. Some people are born with sinuses that aren’t shaped the typical way.

All of these issues can cause respiratory difficulty. There are cases where the best treatment for sinus problems is sinus surgery.

Types of sinus surgery include:

You should typically avoid over-the-counter drugs such as ibuprofen and aspirin for a week before your sinus surgery.

In certain cases, such as after a cardiac stent, people shouldn’t be off their medications for too long. To be safe, ask the surgeon how long they want you off of your medications.

Begin to irrigate the sinus passages with a saline rinse, as well. You should also arrange for a ride to and from your procedure. You will not be able to drive home except in cases of balloon sinuplasty, which is done without general anesthesia.

The steps during a sinus surgery procedure are as follows:

  • You will be placed under either local or general anesthesia.
  • A small telescope will be inserted into your sinuses so that the surgeon can get a detailed look at what’s happening as they work.
  • The doctor will then surgically remove blockages, tiny sections of bone, or polyps from your sinuses.
  • If you’re under local anesthesia, you may feel some pressure or hear the doctor removing things from the sinus system. This is similar to the noise you might here while you are at the dentist having a cavity repaired.
  • At the end of a functional endoscopic surgery, the surgeon may pack the area with light absorbable packing such as Surgiflo to control postsurgery bleeding. They may also insert a stent such as Propel to keep anti-inflammatory medication on the area for a few weeks after the procedure.

Some sinus surgeries use a small balloon to enlarge the sinuses during the procedure. Depending on the shape of your sinuses, your doctor may also suggest repairing the direction of your septum during the surgery. This can help you breathe more easily after you heal.

Like any surgical procedure, sinus surgery does have risks.

The serious complications of sinus surgery are rare. Research shows that minor complications occur in only about 5% of cases, whereas major ones only occur in 1% of cases.

They include:

  • severe bleeding
  • eye trauma and vision problems
  • loss of smell
  • skull injury and leak in brain fluid
  • headache,
  • fever, which can indicate an infection
  • Recurrence of chronic rhinosinusitis (CRS) in cases where that is the underlying cause being treated

You can decrease your risk of complications after surgery by following your doctor’s instructions. You should also be careful of your activity levels in the three weeks afterward.

You won’t need to stay overnight in the hospital after sinus surgery. That said, you should plan to have someone drive you home if you’re having a procedure after which you won’t be able to drive yourself.

After sinus surgery, follow-up care is essential to make sure your sinuses heal correctly. You may experience some fatigue and bleeding for about two weeks after surgery. After functional endoscopic surgery, your doctor may ask you to irrigate your nasal passages with saline.

It could take up to five days for you to feel up for your regular physical activity. You should avoid activities that elevate your blood pressure, such as weightlifting and running until you get clearance from your doctor.

You may need to continue irrigating your sinuses with saline for at least a month or longer in some cases.


During the recovery process, you take special pain relief medication prescribed by your doctor or extra-strength acetaminophen (Tylenol).

Aspirin is usually not recommended because it could interfere with blood clotting. Some doctors also advise avoiding ibuprofen.

You will need to keep your sinus passages moistened with a saline spray immediately after the surgery. The spray will keep blood crusts from forming and blocking the sinuses as they heal.

When to see a doctor?

You’ll see your doctor for follow-up visits every three weeks for about six weeks. At these visits, they will usually clear out some blood and reduce scar tissue after first removing a stent, if you had one.

our doctor may also do a nasal endoscopy to see how your sinuses are recovering.

Other than that, you should see your doctor if you experience any pain, discomfort, or other unusual symptoms.

Without accounting for insurance coverage, a 2022 study found that the mean total cost of sinus surgery to remove nasal polyps was $14,697. In cases with complications, the mean cost rose to $19,762.

Does health insurance cover sinus surgery?

Medicare covers all types of surgeries as long as they are medically necessary. Some private insurance plans may cover sinus surgery, while others don’t.

Sinus surgery is different than rhinoplasty (nose job), which isn’t usually covered unless it’s being done for medical rather than cosmetic reasons. Correction of a deviated septum may still be an elective surgery under your insurance provider’s guidelines.

That said, most private insurance companies should cover sinus surgery, though you may need to complete a pre-authorization form.

Balloon sinuplasty may be harder to get covered. It is an expensive procedure, and not all medical professionals think it should be the first choice. The procedure is often done in your doctor’s office, which can be another reason for coverage refusal.

You may have to do some detective work to figure out if you’re going to be covered.

Don’t be afraid to ask your doctor what you should expect to pay for the surgery. Some offices will offer payment plans or a discount for paying for a procedure in cash. In most cases, you will have to pay additional co-pay fees during follow-up visits with your doctor.

If you are considering sinus surgery, ask your doctor what your particular recovery experience would be like.

Find out from your doctor whether there are certain risk factors in your health history that could make this surgery riskier for you. You may also want to ask what his or her personal success rate has been in the past with this kind of surgery.

For some people, surgery is an absolute last resort, so find out if there are other treatments that you could try before deciding on surgery.

That said, for many people who have repeated sinus infections and difficulty breathing, this surgery is well worth the minimal risks it carries.

Is it painful to have sinus surgery?

You shouldn’t feel anything during the surgery as you will be under general anesthesia. With local anesthesia, you may experience some pressure. After the procedure, there may be some mild pain for a week or so that you can manage with medications if you need them.

Is sinus surgery a major surgery?

If you’re only getting local anesthesia, the procedure is likely minor. If it’s done under general anesthesia or the doctor is operating on multiple sinuses or the skull, it would be a major procedure.

Is sinus surgery worth it?

Whether or not sinus surgery is worth it depends on each person’s particular situation and symptoms. That said, research shows that people who have had sinus surgery can continue to have improved symptoms as long as 12 years after the procedure.

The purpose of sinus surgery is to open the sinuses and remove any blockages.

Though serious complications are rare, it’s important to inform your doctor if you experience any unusual symptoms after the procedure.