Updated 09 June 2017

No-pain hay fever surgery

Radiofrequency surgery appears to help people with hay fever when drugs fail even up to five years after the procedure, a new study shows.


Radiofrequency surgery appears to help people with hay fever when drugs fail even up to five years after the procedure, a new study shows.

Hay fever causes stuffy and runny nose, among other symptoms, because the mucous membrane inside the nose swells when it gets irritated, for instance by pollen or dust. Drugs such as antihistamines and corticosteroid nasal sprays are typically used to alleviate the symptoms, but they fail to work for many people, experts say.

Some may choose to undergo surgery to reduce the size of the swollen mucosal membranes, but procedures such as cold knife surgery and electrocautery often cause pain, bleeding and other side effects.

Painless surgery more popular

Writing in the Archives of Otolaryngology - Head & Neck Surgery, researchers say radiofrequency surgery is becoming increasingly popular, because it is painless and causes few side effects.

It works by heating up the tissue underneath the mucous membrane, reducing its size and killing the small blood vessels that would otherwise lead extra blood to the irritated area.

In the new study, researchers followed patients for five years after they had been treated by Dr Hsin-Ching Lin at Chang Gung University College of Medicine in Kaohsiung, Taiwan.

Seventeen of 119 patients - about 14% didn't respond to the procedure and went on to have more invasive surgeries. Of the rest, however, more than three-quarters felt at least one of their symptoms - including sneezing, stuffy nose and itchy eyes - had improved when evaluated half a year later.

No side effects

At five years, about six in 10 said they continued to experience improvements and no one reported any side effects. All symptoms showed decreases when rated by the patients, and 57% said they would have the procedure done again.

The researchers didn't include a control group, but a shorter study from 2004 found radiofrequency surgery was better than a sham procedure at reducing congestion and easing breathing.

Dr Lino Di Rienzo Businco, an ear, nose and throat specialist who was not involved in the study, said he would definitely recommend the procedure to patients who don't respond to medications.

Di Rienzo Businco, of Ospedale C.T.O A. Alesini in Rome, that the cost of the procedure was about the same as six months of medical treatment.(Reuters Health/ September 2010)


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Dr Morris is the Principal Allergist at the Cape Town and Johannesburg Allergy Clinics with postgraduate diplomas in Allergology, Dermatology, Paediatrics and Family Medicine dealing with both adult and childhood allergies.

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