What to Expect During Your Turbinate Reduction

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Turbinate reduction surgery decreases the size of turbinates, or tiny bony structures within the nose, in order to improve breathing. This same-day procedure is typically performed through the nostrils under local anesthesia.

Turbinate reduction is recommended if turbinates are chronically enlarged and block other portions of the nasal airway (hypertrophy). This can cause disorders like sleep apnea, congestion, postnasal drip, and difficulty breathing.

Doctors performing surgery in an operating room
Thierry Dosogne / Getty Images

The procedure is usually only done if non-surgical measures, such as medications and allergy treatment, do not relieve symptoms. The procedure is often accompanied by a septoplasty, or a surgery that is used to correct a deviated septum.

This article discusses what to expect before, during, and after turbinate reduction. It also explains risks and side effects associated with turbinate reduction.

Before Turbinate Reduction

Prior to your turbinate reduction, you will receive instructions from your healthcare provider. These instructions may include:

  • Certain medications that you should or should not take before surgery, including blood thinners such as aspirin or Coumadin, or diabetic medications such as insulin
  • The specific time to stop eating and drinking the night before surgery

You will also be asked specific questions regarding your health history. This helps determine if you need blood work or other tests before your procedure.

Turbinate Reduction Surgery Cost

Turbinate reduction surgery costs can vary. In general, it can cost between $850 to over $10,000.

Risks of the Procedure

Turbinate reduction risks may include:

  • Anesthesia-related issues
  • Infection
  • Nosebleeds

How Turbinate Reduction Is Done

Turbinate reduction is performed in either a hospital or surgical center and is usually a same-day procedure. Generally, you will have to remove jewelry, contact lenses, glasses, dentures, or hearing aids prior to going into the operating room.

Turbinate reduction is sometimes done with an endoscope, or a small tube with a light at the end which allows the surgeon to visualize the structures inside the nose.

The procedure is done through the nostrils and you won't be able to see the incision. After local anesthesia is administered:

  • A small incision is made in the lining of the turbinate and a small amount of bone is removed or displaced outwards to open the air passage.
  • Some surgeons use a tool called a microdebrider, or a rotary knife that is hooked up to suction, to reduce the thickness of the tissue surrounding the bone.
  • The surgeon then may use cautery or radiofrequency (a method which uses high-frequency electrical currents to deliberately destroy tissue) to stop bleeding and also shrink down the turbinate tissue.

After Turbinate Reduction

After your turbinate reduction, you will need to remain in the surgical center to be monitored. When you are ready to go home, your healthcare provider will give you specific instructions on how to take care of yourself.

You will most likely be prescribed medication to control pain and discomfort.

Post-Surgery Side Effects

After surgery, you may experience side effects, like:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Feeling drowsy

Many people may also have a nasal discharge that may result in crusting around the nostrils as the turbinates heal. Your healthcare provider may recommend using a cool mist humidifier, saline nasal spray, or Vaseline around your nostrils to help with this. You may also need to go back to your healthcare provider to have your nostrils cleaned.

When to Call Your Healthcare Provider

You should call your healthcare provider or seek other medical care if you:

  • Have difficulty breathing
  • Have pain that is not tolerable
  • Have a fever
  • Have excessive bleeding
  • Are unable to eat or drink without vomiting
  • Are unable to urinate after surgery


Turbinate reduction surgery reduces the size of turbinates to help improve breathing. It is typically performed through the nostrils and is a same-day procedure.

During the procedure, your healthcare provider will use various surgical techniques to open your nasal airways. After surgery, you will be monitored and sent home when appropriate.

Turbinate reduction comes with various risks and side effects. Reach out to your healthcare provider if you have any concerning symptoms.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What do turbinates do?

    Turbinates are the portion of your nose that work to warm and moisten the air you breathe.

  • Is turbinate reduction surgery safe?

    Turbinate reduction surgery is considered generally safe with associated risks being relatively rare.

  • How successful is turbinate reduction surgery?

    Turbinate reduction has about an 80% success rate.

  • Do turbinates grow back after surgery?

    While rare, turbinates can grow back after turbinate reduction surgery.

6 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Stanford Medicine. Nasal surgery - sinus surgery.

  2. Thomas A, Alt J, Gale C, et al. Surgeon and hospital cost variability for septoplasty and inferior turbinate reductionInt Forum Allergy Rhinol. 2016;6(10):1069-1074. doi:10.1002/alr.21775

  3. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Turbinate reduction.

  4. Georgakopoulos B, Le PH. Anatomy, head and neck, nose interior nasal concha. In: StatPearls.

  5. Scheithauer MO. Surgery of the turbinates and "empty nose" syndromeGMS Curr Top Otorhinolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2010;9:Doc03. doi:10.3205/cto000067

  6. UT Health Houston. Turbinate hypertrophy.

Additional Reading

By Kristin Hayes, RN
Kristin Hayes, RN, is a registered nurse specializing in ear, nose, and throat disorders for both adults and children.