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Turbinate Reduction

What is Turbinate Reduction?

This is a procedure that shrinks the turbinates to help alleviate chronic nasal obstruction and nasal congestion. It is a surgery that has few risks of complications and a high success rate.

Nasal turbinates and why they are important

Your turbinates are the small mucus-and cartilage-covered curved bones that extend horizontally along the walls of your nasal passage. Your turbinates are important because they filter and humidify the air you inhale through your nose. They are useful in protecting your body against irritants and infections within the inhaled air. They also effectively direct the flow of air.

Types of turbinates

In your nose there are three sets, which include:

  • Inferior turbinates
  • Middle turbinates
  • Superior turbinates

Why you might need turbinate reduction surgery

There are many reasons why you may need this type of surgery such as:

  • Abnormally large turbinates that do not respond to traditional therapies like antibiotics or antihistamines
  • Reducing headaches
  • Reduce or stop snoring
  • Helping with sleep apnea

Surgery

The reason to have turbinate reduction surgery is to reduce the size of the turbinates and still be able to maintain their functions. It is also done to relieve symptoms like post-nasal drip and nasal drainage.

What to do before turbinate reduction surgery?

What exactly you will have to do depends on the surgeon but generally a patient will have to:

  • Not take certain medications like blood thinner (aspirin) or diabetic medications (insulin) before surgery
  • What medications you can take
  • When to stop eating and drinking before the surgery

You need to make sure that you follow your surgeon’s detailed instructions precisely to avoid any complications or problems with the surgery or not having it done because of not following the instructions. You may also have to fill out a health questionnaire answering specific questions about your medical history. This will help to determine if you need any pretests before you have your surgery.

On the day of the surgery before the procedure is done you will need to remove any contact lenses, dentures, glasses, and jewelry.

Procedure

When having turbinate reduction surgery it is often done in conjunction with a septoplasty, which is a surgical procedure to treat a deviated nasal septum. Before having the turbinate reduction surgery your physician will take an evaluation of your medical history and do a physical exam. The surgeon will put you under local anesthetic and put you in a reclining chair. Saline spray will be given in order to break up any mucus in your nose and to give the surgeon better access to the area. When having the surgery the surgeon will insert an endoscope through your nostrils in order to provide visual access to your turbinates. An endoscope is a thin small tube that is equipped with a tiny camera and light source so they surgeon can see better. By doing it this way there are no visible incisions on the outside of your nose. An incision, using a dissolving stitch, will be made in the turbinate to remove a small amount of mucous membrane or excess bone. It is a relatively low-risk surgery. If there is bleeding within your nose the surgeon will use either radiofrequency or cautery treatment to stop the bleeding. The surgery is done on an outpatient basis.

Risks

As with any surgery there are risks such as:

  • Infection
  • Inability to correct your breathing abnormalities
  • Bleeding, which can take several weeks to stop completely
  • Occasionally the turbinate tissue will re-grow making another surgery necessary
  • Having a continual dry nose

Cost

What it costs to have turbinate reduction surgery would depend on the surgeon you choose, and if there were any complications. If the surgeon does it under general anesthesia in a hospital setting instead of local anesthesia in their office it will be more because you are having it done a hospital operating room. If you have insurance check with your company as they may cover the surgery.

Recovering after the surgery

Some of the things you might experience after turbinate reduction surgery can include:

  • Many patients will experience discomfort in the area treated but the pain can be managed through prescription pain medications
  • Dizziness, drowsiness, vomiting, and nausea
  • Nasal discharge, which can lead to crusting around your nostrils. Do not attempt to pick this off as it could cause bleeding. If it is bothersome talk to your physician as to what you can do. Your surgeon may recommend using Vaseline around your nostrils to help prevent this or to use a cool mist humidifier
  • Your eyes may appear bruised or swollen

Recovery time

In most cases the things you experience after surgery will go away on its own after a few days. Approximately a week after turbinate reduction surgery the surgeon will remove any dressings or packing so they can evaluate the healing process. Most patients recover within two weeks after having turbinate reduction surgery.


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