33MD for April 6, 2009

POSTED: Monday, April 6, 2009 - 6:16pm

UPDATED: Thursday, June 3, 2010 - 11:58pm

37 million Americans suffer from sinus problems. The pain, congestion, and fatigue can be caused by everything from colds and allergies to air pollution. But now there’s a new procedure that’s giving patients permanent relief.

Claire Maestri is talking about the sinus infection she just couldn’t shake. “Could not get the energy to do much at all, much less care for a child and live my life the way I wanted to live it.” So she came to Dr. Ford Albritton for a procedure called balloon sinuplasty. “What happens when we get too much traffic on a highway? We widen the lanes, right?”

To widen the sinus opening, the doctor inserts a tiny balloon up through a patient’s nose, and then inflates it. The pressure from the balloon permanently re-shapes the sinuses, allowing them to drain properly. “We’re essentially remodeling the narrow opening of the sinuses where these really thin bones live.”

Unlike more traditional sinus surgeries, recovery from the balloon treatment is quick because no tissue is removed. “It is the biggest advance to this disease since the introduction of the telescope, endoscope into the nose.” Balloon sinuplasty is quickly becoming widely available, and insurance usually covers the cost.

In other medical news, replacing sugar-sweetened drinks with water may be a way to slow the childhood obesity epidemic. Researchers at Columbia University found an average 235 calories would be cut from kids’ diets each day if they drank water instead of juice or soda. Experts didn’t find any negative effect from drinking H2O.

Eat your greens to help prevent stomach cancer. A small Japanese study shows eating baby broccoli can help protect against a stomach bug called H Pylori, which has been linked to ulcers and cancer. Researchers think a chemical in broccoli prompts the liver to produce enzymes that fight the bug. To see a benefit you will need to eat 2 ½ ounces of baby broccoli a day for two months.