Endoscopic Sinus Surgery Complications

Endoscopic sinus surgery is an operation that uses a small thin tube (endoscope) to see and open blocked sinus openings. This operation is done on patients with diseases of the sinuses. As with any surgery, sinus surgery has its own risks. Complications are very rare in the hands of an experienced surgeon. Risks include bleeding, infection and injury to structures such as the eyes and brain.


Dried blood and mucus drip is normal for a few days after the operation. A few drops of blood can drip while bending forward. However, if heavy bleeding occurs after surgery, consult your doctor immediately. You may require hospitalization and a packing in the nose to stop the bleed. Very rarely, you may need a blood transfusion and another operation to control the bleeding.

Brain Injury

The brain is situated very near the sinuses. There is a risk of entering the thin wall between the sinuses and brain. When this happens, the fluid surrounding the brain called the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) leaks. According to University of Maryland Medical Center, CSF leak occurs in 0.2 percent of cases. This can also cause an infection of the brain. Persistent leak has to be closed with an operation.

Eye Injury

The sinuses are close to the eye. During the operation, the thin wall between the sinuses and eye can be breached. This may cause bruising of the eye, double vision, and swelling of eyes. Rarely, bleeding may occur around the eye. This requires another operation to stop the bleeding. Loss of vision is a very serious but extremely rare complication. This happens when the optic nerve is damaged, or when bleeding around the eye occurs.


Infection is possible if you have increased pain, discharge, fever, nose block and discomfort. Your doctor can advise a course of antibiotics to treat the infection.

Persistent Disease

The surgery may fail to cure the problem. The problem can come back again, and a second endoscopic sinus surgery may be required to clear the disease.

Other Risks

Decrease in the sensation of smell and numbness of the teeth, lips and nose can occur after the operation. Scar tissue in the nose can form, resulting in nose block. This requires a follow-up with the surgeon and removal, according to the American Rhinologic Society. Anesthesia complications that are common to any surgery can occur, such as reactions to the drugs and heart and lung problems. With modern techniques, the risks of anesthesia are minimal.

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