Stopping to smell the roses


By Cori Smelker

For those of us who have a perfect sense of smell, and who may never have to worry about anything more than the occasional head cold, the world of sinus trouble (or worse) might seem like a foreign land. However, there are many people in this country and in the Valley who struggle on a daily basis with what so many of us take for granted — a sense of smell and a clear head. The Valley Sinus Center is the answer for those individuals who battle sinus and other issues on a constant basis. Dr. Umang Khetarpal, a prodigy who finished his medical school training at the age of 22, became one of the most foremost experts in head, neck and facial plastic surgery, otherwise known as Otolaryngology, before focusing his attention and training
specifically on sinuses and allergies. Originally from India, Dr. Khetarpal completed his internship and specialty residency training in Syracuse, New York, before moving to Massachusetts where he gained extensive research experience, as well as additional clinical expertise through fellowships at institutions on the east coast including Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and
Harvard Medical School in Boston.
Among his list of accomplishments during that time, Dr. Khetarpal was able to pinpoint the gene mutation that causes deafness and
balance problems in certain people.
His fascination with all aspects of the human body above the shoulders makes for a unique interview. He talks avidly about his expertise with Rhinoplasty, as well as the
various facial surgeries he has undertaken. In 2000, he set his sights on places south of the Mason-Dixon line. He settled on the Valley as the place to dig roots. It is where he founded The Valley Sinus Center. “When I moved to the Valley, I realized that most of my patients were struggling with sinuses and allergies, as well as the related problems associated with that,” he said.
One of those problems is sleep apnea, but Dr. Khetarpal sees a variety of patients suffering from thyroid cancer and facial tumors on a daily basis. “I love that my surgery days can involve anything from a sinus surgery, to working on the vocal chords,” Dr. Khetarpal
says. “I really enjoy that diversity.” However, the majority of the people who come through the doors of The Valley Sinus Center are sinus and allergy
sufferers. Dr. Khetarpal and his staff provide strategies and long-term solutions to those problems. “I know there are people who dismiss allergies and sinus problems as something relatively minor,” he says. “But nasal problems such as sinus infections and severe allergy attacks cause poor performance on the job, chronic fatigue and can cause diminished lung function.”
The medical community has seen a dramatic rise in allergies in children and adults in recent years. Studies have shown that children in rural areas are less likely to suffer from allergies than their suburban or urban counterparts. It’s not because the city kids have more ‘delicate constitutions’ but urban ‘dirt’ for lack of a better word is more harmful than the dirt found in the country, Dr. Khetarpal says. It has to do with the fact that there are more pollutants, so the body tries to compensate for that, he says.
Allergies really amount to the body trying to balance itself out, but overcompensate as a result. Dr. Khetarpal and his staff work with patients to pinpoint the exact triggers and then provide relief, sometimes through nasal drops and other medications. “It is important to get to the bottom of the issues,” he explains. “Sometimes people suffer needlessly because they are trying only one thing at a time, and we need to take a multipronged approach.”
Nothing is too good for the patients that come through the doors of The Valley Sinus Center either. Recently Dr. Khetarpal introduced the latest computerized image-guided surgery for difficult to cure sinus problems. But the one thing he is the most proud of is called “in-office balloon sinuplasty.”
It is one of the latest technologies that helps patients with sinus headache, sinus infections and sinus pressure. A CT scan can determine who will benefit from this procedure. It’s performed in the office under local anesthesia. The patient’s nose is numbed, a catheter is passed into the sinus openings in- side the nose and the openings are enlarged with a balloon. This means no downtime for the patient, and normally a person can return to work within a day or so of the procedure.
Facial and sinus surgeries have come a long way since the days of the radical procedures of yesteryear. Dr. Khetarpal has mastered the no-incision endoscopic approach. Using a camera attached to an endoscope, Dr. Khetarpal takes the camera through the nose, and using the magnified image that is projected onto a screen, he can remove in- fection, polyp or tumor. This kind of surgery provides the minimal amount of trauma to the sinuses, nose and face.
When he is not in the office, you can find Dr. Khetarpal on the tennis courts, swim- ming or even sky-diving. “I used to fish a lot,” Dr. Khetarpal laughs, “But I decided I needed to do something that allowed more exercise.” The mild Valley climate makes his love of sports a year-round activity. When he is not outside playing sports, he can be found reading. He particularly en- joys self-help and spiritual books.
With allergy season at its peak, Dr. Khetar- pal knows he will have many people cross his threshold, but he wouldn’t have it any other way. “I love my job. I enjoy working with my patients; they are the best.” And when you walk in through the doors of The Valley Sinus Center you can know that you are in great hands!
Dr. Umang Khetarpal
The Valley Sinus Center 844 Central Blvd. Suite 280 Brownsville, TX 78520 (956) 504-5360