Free from Chronic Sinusitis,
Patient Resumes Active Lifestyle

Michelle Gerhardt with her dog, Jack.

For Michelle Gerhardt, it was a tough time in her life.

In 2008, the Edgewater resident had chronic sinusitis for three straight months - from Sept. 29 through Christmas.

The small passageways connecting each sinus to the nasal cavity were blocked - preventing mucus from draining into the nasal cavity and resulting in chronic inflammation of the sinus.

A commercial-flooring sales rep, Gerhardt was so sick she hardly left her home office to make sales calls. She was on various antibiotics, oral steroids and nasal steroid spray - but the sinusitis returned. She had sinus pain, difficulty breathing and severe congestion.

For Gerhardt, getting a routine cold or flu would lead to a sinus infection. During her life, she's had dozens of sinus infections. Gerhardt went to several doctors, but her problems continued.

Fearful She Would Get Sick

"I worked as much as I could, but chronic sinus infections were affecting my professional and personal life," said Gerhardt, 40. She loves skating and skiing, but limited her time outside, fearful she would get sick. She also didn't have endurance on the treadmill.

One of her co-workers recommended she make an appointment with Jordan Pritikin, M.D., chief of otolaryngology, Saint Joseph Hospital, and in private practice in Chicago. In spring 2009, she visited the doctor.

"The first thing I liked was that everything was right in his office," said Gerhardt, about the convenience of having a sinus CT scan at the doctor's office. "I didn't have to go anywhere else." A CT (computed tomography) scan produced detailed images of her sinus passageways.

Blocked Sinus Passageways

Gerhardt learned that she had a deviated septum (a condition in which the cartilage that divides the nostrils is not straight and is off to one side) and also had narrow, blocked sinus passageways, causing chronic sinusitis. About 37 million people in the United States suffer from the disorder, which lasts more than eight to 12 weeks.

"Dr. Pritikin was very knowledgeable and didn't come on too strong," said Gerhardt, about her first appointment. "He gave me all the information and options that made it easy for me to make a decision."

She could continue with medications or have a balloon sinuplasty, a procedure where the doctor would use a small catheter and balloon to open the sinuses to promote drainage. He would then insert a second balloon that slowly releases medication into the sinuses, which is left in place for two to three weeks and removed in his office. Dr. Pritikin is among the first physicians in Illinois to use the special catheters to treat disease in the frontal sinuses. He has performed hundreds of balloon sinuplasties.

Gerhardt opted for surgery. "I wanted to solve the problem, not treat it," she said.

In June 2009, she had outpatient surgery at Saint Joseph Hospital. During the 45-minute procedure, Dr. Pritikin shaved her septum to treat the deviated septum, and also performed the balloon sinuplasty.

Very Nice, Very Knowledgeable

How was the care at Saint Joseph Hospital? "It was fast, everyone (hospital staff) was very nice, very knowledgeable - it made a difference with the experience," said Gerhardt. "The nurses and the anesthesiologist were great."

Gerhardt had surgery on a Friday. The following Monday, Dr. Pritikin removed the splints and by Wednesday, she was back to work.

"I now wake up breathing out of two nostrils," said Gerhardt, who hasn't had a sinus infection since surgery five months ago. She has more endurance and looks healthier without dark circles under her eyes, from the lack of oxygen.

It's been a long road to recovery, but Gerhardt looks forward to ski trips, skating and golfing - and living life without chronic sinusitis.

Additional Information

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