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Eustachian Tube Balloon Dilation System Now Available in the Black Hills

Jun 26, 2017 09:46AM ● By Digital Media Director

By: Virginia Olson

The Eustachian tube is not a body part that tends to get much attention – until or unless it fails to work properly. In patients whose Eustachian tubes are unable to drain fluid and equalize pressure, known as Eustachian tube dysfunction, that can mean chronic popping, pressure, or pain in the ears and even muffled hearing. Sufferers might describe their condition as ‘bad ears.’

Loren Jones, MD, ENT, of Spearfish Regional Medical Clinic, recently began using the Acclarent Aera Eustachian Tube Balloon Dilation System for sufferers of Eustachian tube dysfunction. This pioneering new device designed to dilate the Eustachian tubes was approved by the FDA last fall and is already bringing much-needed relief to ear pain sufferers across the region. It is also helpful for people with barotrauma who experience discomfort when flying or other changes in pressure. 

Dr. Jones attended training on the new procedure in a cadaver lab in California last year. He describes it as revolutionary.

“There is nothing else approved for these Eustachian tube sufferers,” he says. “Prior to the balloon procedure, ear tube placement was the only answer. Often times the tubes have to be replaced. This creates the risk for infection and possible structural damage to the ear drum after multiple tube placements.”

With the patient under general anesthesia, the device is inflated to 6 millimeters inside the Eustachian tube and is held in place for two minutes. During those two minutes, the pressure causes injury to the mucus membranes in the lining of the tube. “The hope is that, when these membranes regenerate, they will do so in a more organized and functional manner,” says Dr. Jones.

Most patients require bilateral treatment. The procedure takes about ten to 15 minutes to do both sides. Early clinical investigations with follow-up up to two years after the procedure have indicated that most patients experience an improvement in symptoms and that the response is durable.   Dr. Jones now performs about two procedures each month.

The Acclarent Aera Eustachian Tube Balloon Dilation System is contraindicated in cases of persistent Eustachian tube dysfunction and for anyone under 22. Also, it is not recommended for people with abnormal anatomy such as a craniofacial abnormality or for people with a condition called patulous Eustachian tube.

Potential candidates for the balloon dilation procedure can be evaluated using the ETDQ7, a scoring system that assesses symptoms and outcomes. The tool can be found online or Dr. Jones’ office can supply it to any physician interested in using it to evaluate patients.
Dr. Jones says not only is the procedure brand new, but his clinic’s offering of it is unique in the West River area.

“Until now, patients with persistent Eustachian tube dysfunction have had no options and have had to live with bad ears,” Dr. Jones says. “It is pretty exciting to be offering this special procedure here in Spearfish.”