Functional endoscopic sinus surgery (FESS)

Functional endoscopic sinus surgery (or FESS) is a type of surgery carried out to treat some of the causes of chronic sinusitis.

Chronic sinusitis can be caused by blockages in the nasal passages. The FESS procedure enlarges the passages between the sinuses and the nose so that mucus can’t get trapped. FESS uses a very narrow endoscope to examine the nasal passage and sinuses and to remove polyps and any abnormal tissue, so improving drainage of fluid from the sinuses.

Nasal surgery is normally performed under a general anaesthetic which means you’ll be asleep during the operation. The FESS procedure is usually carried out as day surgery which means you’ll be able to return home on the same day, but you will not be able to drive yourself so you will need to arrange someone to collect you.

Before the operation you’ll be given a nasal spray to reduce the thickness of the lining in your nose.

During FESS, a thin endoscope will be inserted into your nose enabling the surgeon to see the opening of your sinuses and insert the small surgical instruments required to carry out the treatment.

This may involve removing any tissue (such as nasal polyps) that is blocking the sinus. It could include inflating a tiny balloon within the passages that drain your sinuses in order to enlarge them. The balloon is then deflated and removed - this procedure is known as balloon catheter dilation.

These treatments, aimed at restoring normal ventilation and draining of your sinuses, are carried out endoscopically, using instruments inserted through your nostrils. This enables the surgeon to see inside your nose, identify the exact problem, and carry out the required treatment. There is no need for any external incisions.

After surgery you may have packing in the nose to stop bleeding. This should be removed the following morning and any small amount of further bleeding can be controlled by pinching the soft part of the nose, applying an ice pack, and resting. You’ll need to avoid blowing your nose hard for a few days, but gentle sniffing will do no harm. A nasal spray may also help clear the nasal passages during this period.

You may need a few days off work and strenuous exercise should be avoided for a week or two.

As with any surgical procedure there is some risk of infection of the wound or bleeding after the operation. Specific risks associated with functional endoscopic sinus surgery (or FESS) include:

  • reduced sense of smell
  • persistent nose-bleeds

Consultant headshot

Mr Alistair Balfour

Consultant Surgeon
Consultant headshot

Mr David Mitchell

Consultant Surgeon
Consultant headshot

Mr Henry Sharp

Consultant Ear Nose & Throat Surgeon
Get in touch with Benenden Hospital

You can access treatment in a number of ways, as a self-paying or privately insured patient, a Benenden member, or as an NHS patient. In all cases, you just need to ask your GP to refer you to Benenden Hospital. For general enquiries, contact us below.

You can access treatment in a number of ways, as a self-paying or privately insured patient, a Benenden member, or as an NHS patient. In all cases, you just need to ask your GP to refer you to Benenden Hospital. For general enquiries, contact us below.