CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - This is often the worst time of year for sinus infections. Between things like viruses and indoor allergies, 37 million people in the U.S will suffer a sinus infection this year.
Brian Kirk knows all about sinus problems. Whether he was cooking, running or sleeping, he struggled to breathe. "It was pretty bad, the doctor said I don't really know how you're able to breathe the way you do, but I guess your body kind of finds a way," said Kirk.
Eventually, Brian underwent surgery to clear his sinuses - a procedure that takes place about every 40 seconds in the U.S.
And while it's common, sinus surgery is often very complex. Dr. Alax Farag of Ohio State University's Wexner Medical Center explains,
"it is high price real estate, the sinuses are surrounded by the brain and the eyes and so you have to be very, very precise within millimeters."
Though long-term complications of sinus surgery are extremely rare, they can be severe including loss of smell or taste, nerve damage and empty nose syndrome, where the air passages are wide open but patients constantly feel congested.
Too eliminate complications, researchers at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center are designing 3-d customized models.
Medical researcher Kai Zhao uses computational fluid dynamics to develop programs to allow doctors to test the outcome of a patient's sinus surgery before hitting the operating room. Sounds like it's basically a virtual reality trial run as he says it's "like playing a videogame - to remove some of the tissues and then we can back compute what is this effect on the nasal airflow."
The team will also analyze 3-D printed models of the patient's sinus cavity to give doctors even more detail before surgery - because patients have to live with the results forever after.
Researchers are still very much in the testing phase of their presurgical models.
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