Sinus and Allergy

Sinusitis is one of the most common diseases occurring in the United States with nearly 36 million cases diagnosed every year. Originally established in 1979 by W. Paul Biggers, MD, and Libby Drake, RN, the Division of Rhinology, Allergy, and Endoscopic Skull Base Surgery provides a complete range of services for management of sinus and allergy conditions. These services include the latest in medicine, immunotherapy, and surgery.

Robin Gunter, RN, and Gina Stoffel, RN, provide full allergy service to over 300 patients a month. With the use of the multi-test 11 screen, the allergy nurses have been able to test younger children. The opening of the Carolina Pointe satellite clinic has brought unparalled convenience, offering free parking at the front door. The allergy nurses and ENT physicians are an integral part of educating new residents about the importance of allergy treatment in the ENT practice.

The Division is managed by Brent A. Senior, MD, with other members including Adam Zanation, MD, Harold C. Pillsbury, MD, Brett E. Dorfman, MD (WakeMed), and Michael O. Ferguson, MD (WakeMed). Carlos Ebert, MD is the newest member of the team, having trained in Otolaryngology at the University of North Carolina followed by a fellowship in Rhinology at the Georgia Nasal and Sinus Institute. Together, they perform a full range of minimally invasive surgery for management of diseases of the nose and paranasal sinuses, including Functional Endoscopic Sinus Surgery (FESS), a minimally invasive technique used to restore sinus ventilation and normal function in the setting of chronic infection. Recent advances in these minimally invasive techniques developed by UNC surgeons now allow for performance of minimally invasive surgery for many tumors of the nose and sinuses and, in some cases, those of the orbit and even of the brain. Recent technological acquisitions, including the latest in powered instrumentation and computer image guidance, aid in these techniques and provide significant advantages over traditional approaches. In addition, the division was among the first in the world to obtain and utilize intraoperative CT imaging for real-time surgical use.

As a result of the Division of Rhinology, Allergy, and Endoscopic Skull Base Surgery’s leadership in the realm of nasal and sinus disease, UNC Otolaryngology/Head and Neck Surgery was named the first recipient of a “National Center of ENT Excellence” Award in 2004 by BrainLAB, AG, of Munich, Germany, one of the world’s leading image guidance technology companies.

A major activity of the Division is co-sponsorship of educational programs in rhinology and sinus surgery. The Division co-sponsors the Southern States Rhinology Course held each spring on Kiawah Island, South Carolina. Jointly sponsored by the Medical University of South Carolina, the Medical College of Georgia, Emory University, and the Georgia Nasal and Sinus Institute, the course attracted over 80 participants from around the world in addition to over 30 residents. The course provided an opportunity to participate in laboratory dissections while hearing renowned rhinologists over the course of this two-day meeting. The next course will take place April 8-10, 2010; more information on this annual course can be found at www.southernstatesrhinology.org.

Research remains a major focus for the Division. This year, numerous residents and medical students participated in Division research activities resulting in several presentations at major national and international otolaryngologic meetings including the Annual Meeting of the AAO/HNS and the Annual Meeting of the American Rhinologic Society. Topics of division research have included aspects of minimally invasive pituitary surgery, image guidance, and basic science studies in the innate immunity of the paranasal sinus epithelium, leading to several papers submitted and published in peer-reviewed journals. Collaborative work with the Department of Psychiatry and the Division of Pulmonary Medicine is ongoing and yielding new insights into the nature of sinus disease and olfaction.