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Q&A: Empty Nose Syndrome

I have Empty Nose Syndrome (ENS) after sinus surgery. I had the surgery because I had chronic sinusitis and the doctor wanted to open up my nasal passages. Now I’m dizzy, groggy and have difficulty breathing. I often feel like I can’t breathe even though my nose feels extremely wide open. I can’t concentrate; I’m anxious and depressed. Is this my doctor’s fault?

A: Empty Nose Syndrome is a little known but debilitating condition caused by excess removal of the turbinate bones in your nose. Without a complete review of medical records and a discussion with a medical expert, it cannot be determined whether your specific case involved medical negligence.

Various factors are involved in the determination of whether a turbinectomy (surgical removal of turbinates) constitutes medical malpractice.

  • Informed consent: if your doctor did not obtain your informed consent, that is an indication of negligence. Doctors must inform you of the procedure they will perform and describe all the important risks. If your doctor told you he or she intended to perform a septoplasty and never mentioned performing the turbinectomy that actually occurred, then you did not have a chance to give your informed consent.
  • Unnecessary surgery: if your doctor misread your sinus CAT scan or MRI, then your sinus surgery could have been unnecessary.
  • Negligent surgery: if your doctor’s evaluation was correct and a turbinectomy was appropriate, the surgery itself could have been performed negligently. For example, if the MRI scan did not reveal pathology in the sphenoid sinus, yet your surgeon removed large amounts of tissue there, that is an indication of potential negligence.

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