Treatments We Provide: Turbinate Reduction

Inside the nose, on either side of the septum, are three bony structures called turbinates. They work to warm and moisten the air you breathe, which aids in gas exchange once the air flows into the lungs. The mucous membranes covering the inside of the nose also trap particles such as dust and pollen to ensure that air is clean. In a healthy nose, there is enough space between the septum and turbinates for air to move freely.


What Is Turbinate Hypertrophy?

Turbinates can easily become inflamed in the presence of allergies and sinus infections. That in itself is not unusual or worrisome, but, in some cases, the inflammation becomes chronic and causes turbinate hypertrophy. This means the soft tissue covering the turbinates is abnormally enlarged, and symptoms of nasal obstruction are likely to follow:

  • Nasal congestion
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Postnasal drainage
  • Snoring
  • Sleep apnea
  • Sinusitis
  • Epistaxis (nosebleed)

To diagnose turbinate hypertrophy, your doctor will insert a small lighted instrument called an endoscope into your nose and take a close look at the affected sinuses. In some cases, a CT scan or MRI may be needed to get a clearer picture of the area.


What Is the Treatment?

Depending on the cause and severity of the swelling, simple medications such as nasal antihistamines and corticosteroids may be effective in shrinking the inferior (lower) turbinates. In more severe cases of hypertrophy, or those in which medications are ineffective, or a deviated septum is also present, turbinate reduction surgery is often necessary. This is a relatively quick procedure performed under general anesthesia. Your doctor will access the turbinates via the nostrils and remove small portions of either the bone or soft tissue while you’re asleep. Most patients are cleared to return home the same day.


Are there any risks?

Like other procedures involving general anesthesia, turbinate reduction surgery does present a small risk of complications. They may include pain, bleeding, scarring, nasal dryness, and infection. Reactions to anesthesia include itching, hives, shivering, disorientation, and nausea or vomiting. Please talk to your doctor if any of these concern you; most are rarely experienced.


Post-operative care

Following a turbinate reduction surgery, dressings will be placed inside the nasal passages to staunch bleeding and protect the tissues from infection. A small amount of bloody discharge is normal, and you will likely feel congested and sore for a couple of days. It is essential to refrain from physical activity for the first 24 hours of recovery and avoid strenuous activity such as heavy lifting and hard exercise for the next two weeks. Over-the-counter pain medications such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen are recommended to control discomfort. During healing, it’s a good idea to sleep with your head elevated and gently apply an ice pack to the outside of the nose if any significant swelling arises. More detailed post-op instructions will be provided to each patient following their turbinate reduction.

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