Just receiving FDA approval last year, this exciting new surgical procedure has the potential to improve the symptoms of Eustachian tube dysfunction in many patients, while avoiding the potential drawbacks of ear tubes (mild low frequency hearing loss, potential for a persistent hole in the eardrum, and need for precautions with water exposure). A growing body of scientific literature, including a recent high quality randomized controlled trial, shows it to be a safe and effective treatment when compared to medical therapy alone.
The procedure is adapted from the same technology used in balloon sinuplasty. It can be performed safely and comfortably under local anesthesia in the office, and is often done in conjunction with other in-office sinus procedures, as chronic sinusitis is a common coexisting condition. The balloon device guide is gently inserted into the first part of the Eustachian tube--the portion that is enclosed in cartilage. The balloon is inflated continuously for 2 minutes, then removed. This results in remodeling of the swollen inflamed mucosal lining of the tube which is obstructing the tube's opening.
Changes actually occur at the cellular level over the weeks following the procedure, replacing the swollen inflamed layer of tissue just under the surface with a thin layer of scar. While some patients notice some early symptom improvement, the maximum improvement comes at about 6 weeks after the procedure.