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Surgery for hay fever shows promise

Radiofrequency (RF) surgery appears to help people with hay fever when drugs fail - even up to five years after the procedure.

Surgery for hay fever shows promise

Radiofrequency (RF) surgery appears to help people with hay fever when drugs fail - even up to five years after the procedure.

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.

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

Researchers in Taiwan followed patients (refractory to medical therapy) for five years after they had been treated for hay fever by radiofrequency. Seventeen of 119 patients - about 14 percent - 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. At five years, about six in 10 said they continued to experience improvements and no one reported any side effects like recurrent nose bleeds, nasal dryness, bone changes or loss of smell. All symptoms showed a decrease when rated by the patients, and 57 percent said they would have the procedure done again.

Although the outcome of RF surgery for patients with allergic rhinitis responding poorly to medical therapy declines with time, this study found that the improvement in symptoms was still significant 5 years after the surgery. These findings demonstrate the value of RF surgery as an effective and safe tool for treating allergic rhinitis refractory to medical therapy over the long-term.
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