Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery; Bayview Ear, Nose & Throat, Chesapeake
When the introduction of endoscopic techniques revolutionized sinus surgery in the late 1980s, Dr. George L. Murrell immediately embraced the advance.
Since then, Dr. Murrell has become one of the country’s most experienced physicians in both sinus and rhinoplasty surgeries. He has completed more than 4,000 nasal operations in his 30-plus-year career and also published his findings on combining sinus surgery and nasal reshaping for best functional results.
“Options for patients with chronic sinusitis have improved so much since the beginning of my career,” Dr. Murrell says. “We used to only operate on people with very severe cases. Today, so many more people can benefit. Many of my patients don’t even remember what normal breathing feels like, after suffering from congestion, pain and recurring infections for so long. It’s very gratifying to help them.”
Yet even as his specialty has grown increasingly high-tech, Dr. Murrell has held fast to a “boutique-style” medical philosophy of handling each patient’s case himself from start to finish.
“If someone has a problem at 2 a.m. and calls my office, they’re going to be connected to me,” he says. “I’m the only one who operates on my patients. I want them to have a real relationship and connection with me. They’re happier that way, and I believe we get better results.”
Dr. Murrell, a retired Navy Captain, has published more than two dozen scientific papers and delivered over 50 national and international scientific presentations. His research on the use of ear cartilage grafts in nasal surgery, which gained him membership to the prestigious Triological Society, is the largest such study in medical literature. Prominent leadership roles include Past President of the Rhinoplasty Society, a worldwide organization of experienced nasal surgeons.
A graduate of Georgetown University School of Medicine, Dr. Murrell has completed residencies in General Surgery and Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery at Duke University Medical Center, as well as a fellowship in Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
About 75 percent of Dr. Murrell’s practice involves nasal work, including septoplasty, turbinate reduction and removal of polyps and scar tissue. In 2011, he tracked 100 of his nasal patients for 18 months and found an average nasal airflow improvement of more than 300 percent, a study published in the Aesthetic Surgery Journal.
The rest of Dr. Murrell’s cases cover a wide spectrum: tonsillectomies, ear tube placements and eardrum repairs, treatment of thyroid and parathyroid disorders, Mohs reconstruction, and sleep apnea surgery, to name a few.
That diversity was what drew him into the ENT specialty. Born in Savannah, Georgia, Dr. Murrell grew up with a talent for science and general interest in a medical career. He majored in biology at Davidson College in North Carolina and went to medical school planning to be a cardiologist or internist.
However, Dr. Murrell soon discovered his task-oriented personality favored a more surgical specialty. A breast surgeon at Georgetown recommended an ENT rotation. “I immediately liked the variety of ages and procedures involved,” he recalls. “I also saw that you’re able to make a major impact on people’s quality of life.”
After completing his training, Dr. Murrell spent 20 years in the Navy, with posts in Portsmouth and two bases in California. He also had temporary duty assignments in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and Guam Naval Hospital and earned numerous service medals.
“You get a lot of experience right away as a military physician, because you have a built-in patient roll,” he notes. “You don’t have to create a practice, so you hit the ground running right out of training and learn to work well in many different environments.”
Dr. Murrell settled permanently in Hampton Roads in 2012 and has worked with Bayview Physicians since 2014, with privileges at Chesapeake Regional Medical Center. The father of two girls, he is married to a nurse anesthetist and enjoys playing guitar, surfing, boating and backpacking.
Being an active participant in his specialty’s rapid evolution has been a privilege, Dr. Murrell says. For example, pre-1980s surgery for sinusitis could be quite invasive, in some cases requiring physicians to lift up the cheek or peel back the scalp to reach and puncture the sinuses.
Today, with the exception of a few tumor removal cases, all work is done endoscopically. Real-time computer navigation systems and high-definition cameras and monitors also have continuously improved outcomes and recovery time.
“There’s still a rehabilitation process that can last several months,” Dr. Murrell cautions. “That’s why I feel it’s important to form a rapport with my patients. However, they are generally very compliant because they begin to feel so much better.”
Dr. Murrell’s simultaneous expertise in nasal reshaping sets him apart in his field. He is Board certified by both the American Board of Otolaryngology and the American Board of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.
“A lot of patients benefit from having both procedures,” he explains. “Rhinoplasty often allows for further improvements in breathing. If a patient also sees an improvement in appearance, that’s only an additional advantage.”
Dr. Murrell expects surgical equipment will continue to evolve, along with physicians’ understanding of why sinus disease occurs and the best preventive strategies. Non-surgical treatments such as steroid nasal sprays, topical medications and allergy therapies – always the first line of attack – also are regularly emerging on the market.
“There’s a lot of innovation,” Dr. Murrell says. “I’m always ready to incorporate any advances that can change my patients’ lives for the better.”