Chemical Cautery

Tired of your constant sinus congestion? Chemical cautery may help.Happy couple

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 ENT practices across the country.

The treatment involves a series of three sprays of medications to the nasal airways after first decongesting the nose with a powerful decongestant. Each treatment takes about five minutes.

To start 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.

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 burned?

Chemical cautery doesn't burn the nasal lining tissue. 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 over time?

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.

How does chemical cautery work?

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 a big surface area to interact with germs, pollen and other 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 doesn't flow normally. So 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.

How could chemical cautery help?

Many sinus sufferers will benefit from chemical cautery. It's 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'm 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 could be a candidate for chemical cautery. An Iowa ENT Center physician will examine your sinuses and ask some questions to determine if the treatment is right for you. 

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 isn't 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 notice a difference after two 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 four to six months. It's very common for our doctors to hear, “I could tell it was time for a treatment…” at each booster treatment visit.

Will my insurance cover chemical cautery?

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

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

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