Nasal turbinates are wing-like structures that lie inside your nasal cavity. There are 3 pairs of turbinates commonly known as the inferior turbinates, the middle turbinates and the superior turbinates. It is from under the middle turbinate that you sinuses drain and when these are swollen, you will experience nasal congestion. These turbinates, along with the septum and sinuses are extremely important to breathing process.
Turbinates have vascular tissue between bony inside and the mucous membrane on the outside. This vascular tissue can become swollen and inflamed. This can be caused by allergies, infection or irritation. Sometimes these swollen turbinates are mistaken for nasal polyps. For most people, the swelling and shrinking of the turbinates (which happens hourly) will not cause any symptoms. When the turbinates get swollen due to irritation or allergies, they become engorged and produce an excessive amount of mucous which in turn leads to congestion.
How can Nasal Turbinate Reduction Surgery Help Me?
Turbinate surgery is used to treat allergies and nasal congestion when all other options have failed. The simplest way to shrink nasal turbinates is with a procedure known as intramural cautery. This procedure can be done in the doctor’s office and it does not involve cutting or removing of the mucous membranes. In this procedure, a probe or needle is inserted into the nostril which vaporises or cauterizes the blood vessels. Scar tissue that is a result of the procedure shrinks, and in doing this, tightens the soft tissue of the turbinate. This procedure is also referred to as Somnoplasy or Coblation.
Another method of treating engorged turbinates is with a submucous resection. A small incision is made in the turbinate exposing the bone. A section of the bone is then removed and the mucous membranes along with nasal packing are pressed down onto the exposed bone. Sometimes a suction micro-de-brider is used which replaces the need for an incision. A long narrow rod with a rotation blade on the tip is applied into the nasal cavity. Here is oscillates and removes bone or soft tissue which is suctioned up into the open end of the rod.
Using the Septoplasty Procedure in conjunction with Turbinate Reduction
A more aggressive treatment commonly referred to as Septoplasty is performed using general or local anaesthesia. In this procedure, portions of the turbinate are modified, shrunk, de-bulked or excised. The easiest way to do this is by cutting off the lower part of the swollen turbinate with scissors or through electro cautery.
Turbinate Surgery Recovery
Turbinate surgery is not painful and most patients do not have to take pain medication following the procedure. If more than one procedure is performed, there is more risk that it will be a little painful and pain medication is given. An improvement in breathing is not seen immediately since there is swelling, mucous and blood in the nose. Patients need to go back for a follow-up with the surgeon and it is then that any blood or mucous will be removed. Turbinate surgery is an effective procedure on its own or in conjunction with other nasal procedures. Risks include excessive bleeding, infection and anaesthesia. Although rare, they should always be taken into consideration.