R. Neil Van Leeuwen, MD

Dr. R. Neil Van Leeuwen is a board-certified specialist in otolaryngology — the medical term for what is commonly known as ENT (ear, nose and throat).

Dr. Van Leeuwen began his practice at Tanner Clinic in 2007 after separating from the U.S. Air Force, where he most recently served as Surgical Specialties Flight Commander at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio.

Dr. Van Leeuwen, a native of Salt Lake City, graduated from the University of Utah School of Medicine, following undergraduate work at Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah. He completed his residency in general surgery and otolaryngology at the University of Missouri Health Sciences Center, where he served as chief resident in otolaryngology.

Dr. Van Leeuwen’s professional experience includes a variety of leadership roles. He was the Surgical Specialties Flight Commander and Chief of Otolaryngology Element at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, as well as Chief of Otolaryngology at Hill Air Force Base in Utah.

He also served for four years as assistant professor of surgery at F. Edward Hebert School of Medicine, part of the Uniformed Services University of Health Science, as well as assistant clinical professor at Wright State University School of Medicine in Dayton, Ohio.

Dr. Van Leeuwen is the recipient of the Air Force Meritorious Service Medal and the Air Force Commendation Medal.

The physician and his wife, Cathy, are the parents of six children. He is an accomplished reader and enjoys gardening and bicycling.


What patients are saying about Dr. Van Leeuwen

“Dr. Van Leeuwen performed my surgery today and went above and beyond. Through the past week, I felt like I was his number one priority and wasn’t just another patient he had to cycle through. He made sure all possible outcomes were considered and didn’t merely jump to conclusions as I’ve had other physicians do. No more than 10 minutes ago, Dr. Van Leeuwen called me from his personal cell phone to make sure I was recovering well and left me his number if I had any questions.”   —  Jordan on Google+, Nov. 2013

“I have been seeing Dr. Van Leeuwen for the past year for a rare balance syndrome. He was the only one to get the right diagnosis very quickly. He has been super and very caring!”
—  Tara at Vitals.com, June 2, 2013

“He has worked on my wife and my dad and did a fabulous job with both. He was even available after hours to provide needed advice. He saved my dad’s life because he was able to spot an infection and remove it from behind his ear before it penetrated to the brain. This doctor is not a ‘stiff.’ He has a sense of humor and is great with kids, too. I highly recommend his services.”   —  Bryce at Vitals.com, April 30, 2013

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Constant Sinus Infections May Need Special Care, Says ENT

You’ve got the cough, the congestion and, yikes, the headache.
Is it just a cold? Maybe that viral infection that’s been creeping around the office?

That’s likely the correct diagnosis — unless after a week or so you’re still going through Kleenex tissues like crazy.

Then, says, Dr. Neil Van Leeuwen, an ENT specialist at Tanner Clinic, the ailment is likely chronic sinusitis — a sinus infection that just keeps on running.

“If someone has one sinus infection, that’s pretty normal. Two, OK,” said Dr. Van Leeuwen. “But if you start getting three or more, it tells you there’s something wrong inside there.”

Chronic sinusitis occurs when sinuses — the cavities around the nasal passages — become inflamed and swollen, and stay that way despite treatment.

There are multiple factors behind the chronic infection, says Dr. Van Leeuwen. Fungus. Bacteria. Allergic reactions. It may be, he adds, the use of too many antibiotics. Most often, it’s a respiratory tract infection — that is, a cold.

The symptoms of a sinus infection all fall into the “yucky” camp. And
you’re likely to have them in multiples.

Dr. Van Leeuwen has seen many patients who come to him with sinus concerns, but they only have one symptom, such as headache or post-nasal drip, which is a symptom of acid reflux. Without more of the symptoms, it’s likely not sinus-related, and the ailment is treated differently.

“We have people come to see us who have what they think is terrible sinus disease,” said Dr. Van Leeuwen. “When we look at them, it might not be sinus disease — they have migraine headaches, or they just have a runny nose. People sometimes just have a runny nose that’s not caused by sinuses.”

The many symptoms of sinusitis

So, here’s what else to look for when your brain seems stuffed and frozen:

Post-nasal drip: A sensation that something’s draining down the back of your throat. If it’s originating in the sinuses, it’s likely thick mucus.

Drainage: A thick, yellow or greenish discharge from the nose — or as the doctor explains it: “Green junk coming out of the nose.”

Headaches: Pain, tenderness and swelling around your eyes, cheeks, nose or forehead.

Congestion: Difficulty breathing through your nose.

Sore throat

Reduced sense of smell


A general feeling of fullness or tenderness over the entire face



Treatment may include antibiotics, or, if it’s chronic and debilitating, surgery.

High success rate after sinusitis surgery

There are two reasons that will influence the choice to undergo surgery: a long-lasting sinus infection or multiple infections in a year. Surgery, explains Dr. Van Leeuwen, “opens up the sinuses so they function better and so the inflammation won’t block the sinuses and cause infections.”

Sinus surgery is done endoscopically, with the scope and instruments inserted through the nostrils. Nothing appears on the face following this usually two-hour surgery.

And, the post-surgery success rate is high, said Dr. Van Leeuwen. “By and large, you never see those patients in your clinic again, because they get better.”

Family doctors treat sinusitis

So, now that you’ve determined you likely have a sinus infection, do you go straight to an ENT specialist?

No, says Dr. Van Leeuwen. Family practice doctors should be the
first stop.

“Normally, people with a sinus infection will go to their family doctor, he gives them the antibiotics, they get better, and they don’t get another sinus infection for several years,” he said.

An ENT becomes helpful when you’ve been to your family doctor and you’ve gone through the antibiotic without feeling better. Or, said Dr. Van Leeuwen said, “Your family doctor says, ‘You’ve had three infections this year. Maybe you need to see the ENT.’

“If you’re having antibiotics three or four times a year, that’s too many sinus infections,” he said. “Then we have to look deeper.”

AFTERTHOUGHT ON SINUSITIS AND ALLERGIES — People who suspect they have chronic sinusitis should look at the calendar. If the symptoms are prevalent in the fall, the culprit may actually be seasonal allergies.

“The person who says ‘This is my summer sinus infection’ probably has summer allergies,” said Dr. Van Leeuwen.

Allergies do play a role, however. Treating allergies will decrease sinus infections. “By testing and treating allergies, you can often help prevent further sinus problems,” he said.




Selected Publications
  • Textbook chapter titled “Management of Sinusitis in Children” appearing in “Atlas of Head & Neck Surgery-Otolaryngology,” 1997
  • Textbook chapter titled “Sinusitis: Clinical and Surgical Approach” in “Manual of Pediatric Otorhinolaryngology” 2001


In the Media

Dr. Van Leeuwen discusses remedies for sinus infections in “Sinus Infection or Cold?” published by the Standard Examiner on December 8, 2014.