What to Expect During Your Turbinate Reduction

Turbinate reduction is usually indicated when enlargement obstructs other portions of the nose and airway causing disorders such as sleep apnea, congestion, postnasal drip, and difficulty breathing. This procedure is usually only done if non-surgical measures, such as medications and allergy treatment, do not relieve symptoms.

Turbinates are the portion of your nose that works to warm and moisten the air you breathe. The turbinates circulate the air and warm it. Unfortunately, these vessels can also become enlarged, due to the bony structure of the nose is too big or there is an excess of soft tissue. The procedure to reduce the size of the turbinates is often accompanied by a septoplasty, (a surgery that is used to correct a deviated septum). However, this will focus on turbinate reduction as a stand-alone procedure.

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

Before Turbinate Reduction

Prior to your turbinate reduction, you will receive explicit instructions from your healthcare provider or nurse. These instructions may involve 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. You will also be instructed to stop eating and drinking at a specific time the night before surgery.

In addition to these instructions, you will be asked specific questions regarding your health history. This helps to determine if you need blood work or other tests before your procedure. Generally, you will have to remove jewelry, contact lenses, glasses, dentures, or hearing aids prior to going into the operating room.

Turbinate Reduction — The Procedure

Turbinate reduction is performed in either a hospital or surgical center and is usually a same-day procedure. Turbinate reduction is sometimes achieved through the use of an endoscope (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 so that you cannot see the incision.

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 (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 for a period of time. When you are ready to go home your healthcare provider or nurse will give you specific instructions on how to take care of yourself. Your healthcare provider's instructions supersede the advice given in this article. However, you will most likely be prescribed medication to control pain and discomfort. You may experience some nausea or vomiting after surgery and if you do you should only eat and drink clear liquids. You will probably be dizzy or drowsy after your surgery.

You should call your healthcare provider or seek other medical care if you have difficulty breathing, your pain is not tolerable, you have a fever, excessive bleeding, if you are unable to eat or drink without vomiting, or if you are unable to urinate after surgery.

Many people 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 the healthcare provider to have the nostrils cleaned.

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

  2. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Turbinate reduction.

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