Chemical Cautery

What is chemical cautery therapy?

Chemical cautery therapy is a painless, office-based, non-invasive treatment for a wide variety of sinus problems.  It was initially developed at the University of Iowa and has been used in several other ENT practices in the Midwest.

The chemical cautery treatment process is a non-invasive approach to managing chronic sinus problems.   It involves a series of treatments over time (usually 2-3 treatments per year) to maintain long-lasting relief from symptoms and protection from infections.  Chemical cautery  frequently takes the place of other medications, in some cases eliminating the need for antihistamines, decongestants, and nasal sprays.  This makes it a very cost-effective and time efficient treatment.

Doesn’t “cautery” mean the nose is being damaged or burnt?

Chemical cautery does not burn the nasal lining tissue and causes no lasting harm.  It is not a treatment to stop a nosebleed.

Does chemical cautery hurt?

No.  The treatment is mildly irritating to the lining of the nose for about one hour after treatment.  This promotes clearing of the sinuses.  Once this initial effect has passed, there is no discomfort whatsoever.

Does chemical cautery damage the nasal lining?

No.  Chemical cautery has been used for decades, and no complications have been reported.  The medications used are very mild and cannot injure the nasal lining.

What is involved in starting chemical cautery?

Chemical cautery involves a series of three sprays of medications to the nasal airways after first decongesting the nose with a powerful decongestant.  The entire treatment takes about 5 minutes.  Treatments are spaced out.  To start the chemical cautery therapy, patients undergo monthly treatments for three months.  Over  time, the effect  wears off, so booster treatments are given about every four to six months.

How does chemical cautery work?

Doctors believe that chemical cautery works by improving the self-cleaning properties of the nasal and sinus lining.  If the entire lining of the nose were laid out flat, it would be the size of an unfolded newspaper.  That’s big surface area to interact with germs, pollen, and irritants.

The body protects the nose’s lining with a sophisticated cleaning system.  Under a microscope, the nose’s lining looks like shag carpet.  Each fiber represents a cilia, which is basically a brush. Each of these cilia move about 800 times each minute to constantly sweep a thin layer of protective mucous across the lining of the nose like a giant conveyor belt or a moving carpet.

When germs, pollen, or irritants get trapped in the mucous, the healthy nose quickly sweeps the problem away.  In the diseased nose, the mucous does not flow normally.  When germs, pollen, or irritants land on the nasal lining, they sit there and gum things up.  This triggers inflammation and can cause or maintain sinusitis.  By re-establishing the self-cleaning properties of the nose, chemical cautery reverses and prevents a wide variety of sinus problems.

Who is a candidate for chemical cautery?

Many sinus sufferers will benefit from chemical cautery.  It is generally helpful for:

  • Sinus infections
  • Allergies
  • Sinus headaches
  • Facial pain
  • Facial pressure
  • Nasal congestion
  • Nasal stuffiness
  • Ear pressure and recurrent ear infections

How do I know if I am a candidate for chemical cautery?

If you have any of the symptoms listed above or if you consider yourself to be a “sinus sufferer,” you are a candidate for chemical cautery.  You should be seen by one of our physicians for assessment.

Does chemical cautery work for everyone?

Roughly 80% of chemical cautery patients who are felt to be candidates by our physicians will do very well with Chemical Cautery.  For some patients, after careful assessment, Chemical Cautery is not the right method of treatment.  In virtually every case, however, our physicians can provide relief through other interventions.

How will I know if chemical cautery is helping me?

Most patients will notice a difference after 2 treatments.  For patients who have convincing improvement in their symptoms, chemical cautery will be a good long-term treatment method.

Are the effects of chemical cautery permanent?

No.  Booster treatments are required – usually every 4-6 months. It is very common for our doctors to hear, “I could tell it was time for a treatment…” at the 4-6 month booster treatment visit.

Will my insurance cover chemical cautery?

Nearly every insurance plan will cover chemical cautery performed through the Iowa ENT Center.

To learn more or to speak to one of our ENT specialists, request an appointment online or call 515-223-4368.