Safer, more effective sinus procedures now available in the Vaal Triangle

New standard set for sinus surgery in the Metsimaholo region

Tuesday, March 13 2018

A new type of sinus procedure, which is not only safer but also more effective than the treatment options that have been available to patients in the past, is now offered at Netcare Vaalpark Hospital. This new procedure has been made possible by the acquisition of new Fusion surgical navigation technology by the hospital.

This comes as good news for the people of the greater Vaal Triangle, a major industrial region, where allergies and secondary sinusitis are fairly common healthcare conditions among residents of the area.

Pic: Dr Eras van der Walt, ENT (ear, nose and throat) surgeon practising at Netcare Vaalpark Hospital, using the new Fusion surgical navigation technology which was recently installed at the facility. The new technology has made sinus procedures safer and more effective for the people of the Vaal Triangle.

Commenting on the new development, Dr Eras van der Walt, resident ENT (ear, nose and throat) surgeon at Netcare Vaalpark Hospital, and the driving force behind the acquisition of the new technology, explains that while endoscopic sinus operations have been done successfully in the Metsimaholo region for many years, the introduction of the technologically advanced unit is an important first for the area.

Dr Van der Walt explains that during the past 20 to 25 years functional endoscopic sinus surgery (or FESS) has been the mainstay of sinus operations, which are undertaken for the treatment of sinus infection, also known as sinusitis.

“What makes the new Fusion unit so special is the fact that it is able to integrate the patient’s CT scan and the spatial orientation of the head into one collection of images, by showing three different views on a computer screen. This is almost like seeing a 3D-image, which means that with the aid of this technology, instruments can be tracked to establish their exact position inside the sinus cavities.

“The technology also shows the surrounding structures such as the orbit and brain. The more dangerous and difficult to access areas can therefore be explored and opened more thoroughly, while simultaneously improving accuracy and reducing risks,” adds Dr Van der Walt.

“During this procedure the ear, nose and throat surgeon works in a confined space inside the nose and sinuses with the aid of a little telescope or endoscope using specially designed instruments to improve the anatomy of the sinuses by removing structures that may block the tiny drainage passages. The procedure is done to improve the functionality of the sinuses and to help to get rid of infections and to prevent future infections.

“Due to the location of the sinuses in the head and their close proximity of vital organs such as the brain, some arteries and eye structures, sinus surgery is a delicate procedure which can potentially have serious complications, especially where certain areas of the sinuses need to be opened. In the past complications were avoided by leaving a wide safety margin, unfortunately sometimes resulting in the inadequate opening of the area concerned and in a less than satisfactory outcome for the patient. Now, using the Fusion technology we have the means to better plan and execute procedures,” notes Dr Van der Walt.

He adds that the use of the Fusion unit is not only reserved for surgery to treat extensive sinus infections, but also for mild infections or obstruction of certain difficult to reach sinuses such as those in the forehead (frontal sinuses) and the sphenoid sinuses.

Is it sinusitis or rhinitis, and what is the difference?

According to Dr Van der Walt, problems associated with the nasal passages can often be a little confusing for those afflicted.

“Many patients will for example confuse sinusitis with rhinitis, another very common nasal condition, which is an inflammation of the nose and is caused by allergies, pollution and other environmental factors.

“The distinction can often be very difficult because the symptoms such as a blocked or runny nose and even headaches or pain in the face may overlap, and many patients may suffer from the same or similar symptoms.

“However, in the case of rhinitis, medication will usually be prescribed to good effect while surgery is often needed for sinusitis, especially if a first line antibiotic has failed, or if the condition re-occurs and becomes chronic.

“It is therefore important that the correct diagnosis is made by an ENT specialist who will not only conduct a thorough examination but will also call for a CT scan of the sinuses,” says Dr Van der Walt.

According to Nellie Koen, general manager of Netcare Vaalpark Hospital, Dr Van der Walt has a special interest in sinus surgery and has successfully completed several image guided operations since attending a special FESS course in September last year.

“With allergies and air pollution being so prevalent throughout the world and more specifically in industrial areas such as the Vaal Triangle, secondary sinusitis is a very common condition nowadays which is terribly uncomfortable for those having to live with it.

“The good news is that the condition can be treated more effectively and safely than ever before, right on your doorstep here at Netcare Vaalpark Hospital,” concludes Koen.


Issued by:    Martina Nicholson Associates (MNA) on behalf of Netcare Vaalpark Hospital
Contact:    Martina Nicholson, Graeme Swinney and Meggan Saville  
Telephone:    (011) 469 3016
Email:        mar[email protected], [email protected]  or [email protected]