What are turbinates?
Did you know that your nose is made with built-in air filters? Inside your nose are three pairs of fleshy structures that help filter, warm, and add moisture to the air you breathe in. These structures are called turbinates.
Healthy turbinates will do a good job of regulating the temperature and level of moisture inside your nose. But if they become swollen, enlarged, or displaced, they can cause a nasal blockage. This can make it difficult to breathe
Turbinate reduction is also commonly recommended for those who undergo septoplasty, which is surgery to correct a deviated septum. A deviated septum is a shift of the bone and cartilage between the nose’s two nostrils. A turbinate reduction can help further open up the airways of a person who’s had a septoplasty.
Why is turbinate reduction needed?
A lot of people experience issues with their turbinates from time to time. These problems, and the breathing difficulties that accompany them, usually go away on their own or with medical treatment.
Causes of turbinate enlargement include:
- weather changes
- hormonal changes
- chronic infections
- severe allergies
- anatomic issues with the nose
A deviated septum is a shift of the bone and cartilage between the nose’s two nostrils. It can cause compression of the turbinates and trouble breathing.
A turbinate reduction can help further open up the airways of a person who’s had a septoplasty.
There are several ways to reduce the size of the turbinates. Some are less invasive than others.
Cauterization, Coblation, and Radiofrequency reduction
In some cases, doctors recommend surgeries that shrink the turbinates without removing any underlying bone or tissue.
To do this, a surgeon uses a special needle-like device that heats the turbinates using a heat source or energy waves. This causes scar tissue to form, reducing the turbinates’ size.
These procedures fall under the categories of cauterization, Coblation, and radiofrequency reduction.
They usually take about 10 minutes and can be performed under local anesthesia in a surgeon’s office. Local anesthesia is injected into the nasal tissues using a needle.
Usually no special preparation is needed. These procedures are often used in less severe cases of turbinate enlargement.
In other cases, a doctor may recommend that parts of the turbinates be surgically removed. These procedures are usually done in an operating room under general anesthesia using a gas that you inhale or with an anesthetic given intravenously (through an IV).
You shouldn’t eat or drink beforehand, usually starting the night before. You should also avoid taking medications containing aspirin or ibuprofen for two weeks before surgery to minimize the risk of bleeding.
During this kind of turbinate reduction, a surgeon cuts into the turbinates to remove some of the bone beneath them, to reduce their overall size.
They may also use a small handheld device that can shave away some of the tissue around your turbinates, further opening your nasal cavity.
Surgical removal of underlying bone or tissue surrounding the turbinates is usually reserved for more serious cases of turbinate enlargement. It’s often done during a septoplasty.
A septoplasty also involves cutting into the nasal cavity to correct a deviated septum.
What’s the outlook?
The goal of turbinate reduction surgery is to shrink the size of the turbinates without removing too much tissue.
A lack of turbinate tissue may cause the nasal cavity to become very dry and crusty. In some cases, a reduced turbinate may regrow, requiring a repeat surgery to reduce their size.
In most cases, turbinate reductions are successful at opening the airways and making breathing easier. By following your surgeon’s pre-operative and after-care instructions, you can speed your healing and maximize your results.