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What is the Caldwell-Luc Procedure?

By Dulce Corazon
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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The Caldwell-Luc procedure, also known as a radical antrum operation, is a surgical procedure generally done for the treatment of chronic maxillary sinusitis, a condition characterized by the obstruction and inflammation of the maxillary sinuses. It is also sometimes performed to obtain a tissue for biopsy of a tumor located in the area below the eyes. The maxillary sinuses are hollow air spaces located on both sides of the nose, just beneath the cheeks. Causes of maxillary sinusitis include allergies, nasal polyps and direct trauma to the face, among many others. Symptoms include fever, clogged nose, facial pain, runny rose and sometimes a toothache.

Otolaryngologists are the medical experts performing the Caldwell-Luc procedure. They are doctors specializing in the treatment and management of patients with disorders related to the ears, nose and throat. The Caldwell-Luc procedure is often done on patients with frequent maxillary sinusitis that does not resolve with other treatments. Patients are usually placed under general anesthesia. A small incision is then made between the gum and the upper lip, and a small portion of the maxillary bone is usually removed. The sinus opening leading to the nose is often made larger. This usually results in improved drainage of natural secretions.

Some side effects may arise after the procedure. The most common is swelling of the face, which resolves after a few days. Other side effects are bruises on the neck, numbness of the upper lip and cheeks, pain while eating or chewing, facial pain and sometimes teeth discoloration. There are usually no visible scars after the operation, as the incision is made under the upper lip.

A patient may go home after a few days in the hospital. He is usually given take-home instructions and medications, such as antibiotics and painkillers, to fight off infection and relieve pain, respectively. A follow-up visit to his physician is also scheduled, usually after a week to monitor the healing process.

The Caldwell-Luc procedure was coined after Dr. Henry Luc, a French laryngologist, and Dr. George Caldwell, an American physician. It was a common procedure before the advent of newer technology, like the endoscope — a flexible tube equipped with a camera which helps surgeons look inside the body. Functional endoscopic sinus surgery (FES) has largely replaced the Caldwell-Luc procedure in treating chronic maxillary sinusitis. This is because FES is less invasive and has fewer side effects.

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Discussion Comments
By anon993857 — On Dec 21, 2015

I had Caldwell Luc done about 8 days ago and I am experiencing numbness of the cheek, top gum, teeth and nose on the same side of the surgery. It is very uncomfortable. I would not do it again!

By anon959390 — On Jul 04, 2014

This is the best thing I've ever had done! I felt like I had lost a fight with a heavyweight contender for about a week, but after that I didn't have another sinus infection for 15 years.

By anon226103 — On Oct 30, 2011

OK, but my friendly butcher (sorry) did not say anything about the tampon that has to be extracted after a few days. What about some pain medication? I had the feeling they removed a tooth through my nose!

By emartin74 — On Feb 15, 2011

@Kalley – I had the Caldwell-Luc procedure done once, before I had it done my doctor had me take amoxicillin along with different decongestants. In addition I also bought an over-the-counter nasal spray. Those provided some relief, but the symptoms didn’t go away completely. As a matter of fact, after I used the nasal spray I actually got more congested. My doctor then prescribed a prescription inhaler and told me to take an expectorant so the mucus would drain easier. He also suggested I get a humidifier since my home is heated with dry heat. All of those things helped for a little while, but my sinusitis came back. Since we had pretty much exhausted all of our options, my doctor told me the only option left was for me to have the Caldwell-Luc procedure done. After all the swelling and pain went away, I never had any more problems with my sinuses.

By Kalley — On Feb 14, 2011

So what kind of treatments would have to fail before the Caldwell-Luc procedure is done?

By anon145401 — On Jan 23, 2011

I had this procedure done in 1970. After the surgery i had an allergic reaction to plastic. Recently i had two small pieces of plastic, which were cone shaped with three small dots on them fall out of my ear.

I am unable to get an answer as to what, if anything, is usually left in the nose or ear passage following this surgery. Has anyone had a similar experience or would know what the pieces of plastic might be.

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