Doctors decry sinusitis surgeries, hail eastern remedies

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Doctors perform an endoscopic sinus surgery at Ho Chi Minh City Ear, Nose, Throat Hospital. Photo courtesy of Tuoi Tre

Many people believe surgery is the ultimate cure for sinusitis, but doctors advise that it should be the last option as it usually changes the nasal structure in "needless ways."

A patient from Ho Chi Minh City, only identified as N.T.T.T., was first diagnosed with the condition in 2000, and a doctor at a local hospital recommended her to undergo surgery.

However, when the inflammation recurred even after the surgery, doctors at the Ho Chi Minh City Ear-Nose-Throat (ENT) Hospital told her that there had been no need for having an operation.

Meanwhile, reflexology therapists that she sought help from said the surgical intervention would make it more difficult for eastern medicine treatment to be successful.

In T.'s case, both western and traditional medicine practitioners said she made a hasty decision to undergo surgery.

Doctor Tran Phan Chung Thuy, director of HCMC ENT Hospital, said in a Tuoi Tre newspaper report that surgery is not prescribed for every sinusitis patient.

Thuy said at the city's Cho Ray Hospital, where she used to head the ENT department, more than 70 percent of people suffering sinusitis are provided non-surgical treatment.

She said surgery is never a cure for acute sinusitis, except when it develops further complications, and is only recommended in rare cases of chronic sinusitis caused by abnormal facial structures.

Her deputy at the ENT hospital, Le Tran Quang Minh, said sinusitis caused by pulpitis (inflammation of dental pulp tissue), fungal infection, deformed sinus lining, or a concha bullosa (an air-filled cavity) are conditions that call for surgery.

Otherwise, in cases sinusitis caused by mucous membrane conditions such as allergic rhinitis or cystic fibrosis, which is a hereditary disease leading to the secretion of thick mucus that blocks internal passages, surgery is not indicated, Minh said.

Doctor Le Hung, chairman of Ho Chi Minh City Traditional Medicine Association, said the condition can be eased a lot by intensive physical therapy plus lifestyle changes that require no surgical or even medical treatment.

Hung said patients need to avoid working in air-conditioned rooms or dusty, allergy-producing environments and stop habits like drinking and smoking.

He said acupuncture and reflexology, combined with herbs, are effective in treating the first stages of the condition.

Western medicine intervention will be needed if the condition worsens, but surgery should only be suggested when it has developed to a stage where all other methods don't work.

Hung also said there are licensed traditional medicine practitioners who are also have knowledge of western medicine, who can read X-rays or CT scans to decide what is causing the condition and what stage it is at, so as to advise right treatment.

If the inflammation is severe, oozing pus and causing pain and fever, modern treatment is necessary, but non-surgical interventions should still be preferred, he said.

Tran Van Nam, deputy head of the Ho Chi Minh City Institute of Traditional Medicine, said a surgery should only be thought of after other methods have failed to improve the condition for a long time.

But "the condition will not totally disappear after the surgery, it will still recur in convenient conditions," Nam said.

Germany-based doctor Luong Le Hoang, known for his emphasis on the importance of combining western and traditional remedies, said early intervention was key to treating sinusitis, and that the condition will just persist or keep recurring if patients depend exclusively on western medicine and ignore the effects of herbs and physical therapies, and refuse to adopt a healthy lifestyle.

Hoang told the Nguoi Lao Dong newspaper that patients need to drink at least two liters of water a day to dilute the blocking mucus, increase zinc input to help the healing and maximize the effect of antibiotics, using natural antibiotics such as strawberry, onion, and ginger and vitamin C to improve immunity, vitamin A to strengthen the mucous membranes, and milk to provide calcium for the adrenal gland which has to work more than normal to fight inflammation.

He also recommended steam inhalation using lemongrass, ginger and lemon.

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