A Ghoulish Tale

Recently, a critic posted three ghoulish comments on my blog, apparently snorting at the absurdity of my story. I believe his narrative went something like this: an ENT had removed his nose when he was a baby, and created a third ear out of it. Now, as an adult, he paid the ENT $700 a year to clean the crud off the created ear. The moral to the story is that ENT’s are dangerous to babies and should be kept away from them. It’s a Halloween tale.

Unfortunately, it’s eerily close to the true story of what happened to me. I went to an ENT for tinnitus. I chose a D.O. because I use natural and homeopathic medicines. I appeared in his office with a bottle of homeopathic medicine for ear ringing. Two months later, on October 30—Halloween Eve—the ENT drilled and power-sawed a pile of bone and cartilage measuring nearly two inches by two inches out of my face and nose. He had told me he was removing a sinus polyp.

Lest anyone (else) should find my story ridiculous, here are some excerpts from the surgery report: “…multipuncture bipolar inferior turbinate reduction at setting of 35 watts…” “…trimmed down using power dissector in the form of suction irrigation oscillating 3000 cycles per minute of Xomed microdebrider with a 12-degree blade.” “Dissection with a power dissector was used to dissect the ethmoid infundibulum.” “The medial wall being semilunar hiatus was opened up several millimeters…” “Anterior to posterior dissection was done through the back wall of the ethmoid infundibulum through the basal lamella through the posterior ethmoid system.” “Maxillary sinus…opened up several millimeters.” “…a Caldwell-Luc approach with trocar obdurator under the lip…was done.” “The back wall of the ethmoid infundibulum being the ethmoid bulla was dissected…” “An anterior tunnel was created connected with an inferior tunnel along the premaxillary groove. An osseous-cartilaginous incision with the nose attached to the face was done and bilateral posterior tunnels were then made.” “Spurs and deflections from the vomer, perpendicular plate of the ethmoid, and premaxillary groove were removed with sharp and blunt dissection including large biting forceps and a Ballenger swivel knife and Killian knife…”

Not surprisingly, “this left a markedly deformed septum.” Dr. S had told me he was going to “fix that deviated septum” while removing the polyp, though—as I would later find– the pre-surgery CT report states “no significant sepal deviation is seen.” Of course Dr. S knew that significant septal deviation WOULD be seen by the time he put down his power tools. When he put the mess of my face back together, it was no longer my face. My nose no longer functioned and the pain and dysfunction was beyond my previous imagining. I did not know why I looked different or why I was suffering until I read the surgery report six weeks after. That was the first I knew about bone being removed from my skull.

Months later, I was talking on the phone to a counselor from Compassion and Choices about ending my life. “I understand your suffering,” the young man said. “My grandmother had such horrible sinus problems that she considered ending her life because of them. Finally, there was nothing left to do for her and…this was a long time ago, you understand…they were actually going to drill holes in her head…can you BELIEVE that?” he asked. “She refused.”

“That’s what he did,” I said. “He drilled holes in my head. And I didn’t even have sinus problems.”

I would have refused, too, but I wasn’t asked. I wasn’t told. It was the year 2007. You could do surgery without even using a knife. I would never have guessed that Dr. S was planning to do a surgery devised in the 1800’s, a surgery that leaves a third of its victims with permanent facial paralysis—an effect I escaped—barely. I had slight paralysis through the first post-op year.


It is no wonder my heckler expressed disbelief. Disbelief is what I felt in the aftermath of this surgery. Who would ever have suspected? My surgery was more extreme than most, but turbinate reductions are done routinely. It is frowned upon in the medical literature, but ENT’s do them routinely, anyway.



Afterwards, when our noses dry up and we can’t breathe, disbelief is what we feel. I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard, “I can’t believe this. It’s like something from medieval times.” Cutting bone out of people’s heads—did I NEED to ask the surgeon if he was planning to do this? There may be cases in which this is an appropriate measure, but shouldn’t it be obvious that you don’t do this casually? Think of the cutting that was done in my head—should that be done in an outpatient surgery center on a patient with no history of sinus complaints?

It is unthinkable, ghoulish, primitive, unbelievable, and it is happening every day. Happy Halloween.


~ by ens3 on October 27, 2009.

2 Responses to “A Ghoulish Tale”

  1. WHOA, that’s pretty hardcore. Really good post. Sinus infections (especially chronic ones) are no fun at all and can definitely lead to other issues (not to mention pretty much take over your life).
    Dealing w/ chronic sinusitis is another story. Sinus surgery has long been the only option when all else fails. However there are now some other ways to turn. Balloon sinuplasty is gaining traction – lots of info out there.
    Anyway. Knowledge is power – do your homework and talk to your doctor. Find the solution that fits your condition best.
    Take care.

    • GDC, Right. Do your homework…and talk to at least two doctors…unless you have been with the one you are seeing for a while and you trust him/her.

      I had never seen an ENT before this one. I had never complained to any doctor of sinus problems. I had never had a sinus infection. I did not complain to THIS doctor of any sinus issue. I went to him for tinnitus. He found sinus polyps incidentally on a scan. They were asymptomatic. His response was to perform the most drastic and destructive sinus surgery ever devised. He did not suggest any meds. He just went into my head and butchered my face and nose–exactly 6 days after viewing the scan.

      I never would have imagined something like this could happen in this technological age. It can and it does every day. My case is extreme, but I have met dozens of unsuspecting victims of unnecessary turbinate reductions. A turbinate reduction is an extreme measure, and it is supposed to be a last resort. It is the cutting of bone out of the nose–out of the skull. The surgery cannot be reversed or corrected. It can result in the condition called Empty Nose Syndrome.

      Why is this being done routinely given the terrible risks?

      I want to stress to everyone who reads this–Do not allow a turbinate reduction unless you are suffering infections and/or breathing difficulties. A trial of medication is mandatory before surgery. if all fails…then do your homework.If an ENT suggests surgery OF ANY KIND–ask if he/she intends to do a turbinate reduction. My ENT did not mention it at all. Not a word. It is passing insurance company scruitny, and many ENT’s are throwing it in to any surgery they can get approved.

      GDC, thank you for your comment.


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