Turbinate Reduction Surgery to Treat Nasal Blockage: What Is It & Will It Help?

If you’re living with chronic nasal blockage, you may be a candidate for turbinate reduction surgery. In this blog, we explore what this procedure entails and whether it’s effective in relieving symptoms caused by nasal obstructions.

What Are Turbinates?

Before discussing what turbinate reduction surgery involves, it may be helpful to explain what turbinates are and how they can cause a nasal blockage. Turbinates are structures on the side walls of the nose with vascular tissue inside and mucus membrane covering. There are three pairs of turbinates within the nasal cavity. The inferior (lower) turbinates are the subject of this discussion.

Turbinates are meant to cleanse, warm, and humidify air inhaled through the nostrils before it reaches the lungs. However, allergies, an infection, or irritation can cause the turbinates to become inflamed and swollen or chronically enlarged which can in turn block air from moving through the nasal passageways and make it difficult to breathe. Inflammation and swelling of the turbinates can also lead to excess mucus production, which can cause congestion. Many patients with enlarged turbinates will experience difficulty breathing through the nose while lying down. Some experience alternating congestion as well.

Doctors generally recommend that patients experiencing chronic nasal blockage related to turbinate swelling first attempt to relieve their symptoms using conservative methods before turning to surgery. This might involve:

  • Taking allergy medication
  • Undergoing allergy shots
  • Using a steroid nasal spray

However, if this approach fails to provide sufficient relief, then turbinate reduction surgery may become necessary.

What Is Turbinate Reduction Surgery?

Turbinate reduction surgery involves removing excess tissue to decrease the size of the turbinates with the goal of minimizing nasal blockage, opening the nasal airways, and improving airflow. (Some patients also experience a reduction in snoring, but not everyone). This can be accomplished using any of the following techniques:

  • Radiofrequency turbinate reduction – The surgeon uses a probe to transmit heat energy to the turbinate (a process known as “radiofrequency ablation”), and the resulting formation of scar tissue helps reduce the size of the turbinate tissues.
  • Microdebrider submucosal resection – The surgeon creates a small hole in the turbinate and removes tissue below the surface through that opening, leaving the outer lining intact.

What to Expect During & After Turbinate Reduction Surgery

Turbinate reduction surgery can be performed as an outpatient procedure in the surgeon’s office. Using topical anesthetic first will numb the nose very well. Most patients do not experience pain with the subsequent injection of anesthetic into the turbinates or during the procedure itself. The procedure takes about twenty-five minutes.

Many individuals undergoing turbinate reduction surgery experience slight discomfort for a few days after the procedure and some minor bleeding which usually resolves within 24 hours. Crusts inside the nose from the small openings are usually washed off with salt water washing used over the subsequent three weeks. Full recovery from turbinate reduction surgery usually takes approximately six weeks but many people are able to resume their normal activities within about one week.

Potential Complications of Turbinate Reduction Surgery

Like any surgical procedure, turbinate reduction surgery has the potential to cause certain complications. These may include:

  • Chronic nasal dryness, which is rare
  • Bleeding, which usually resolves itself quickly
  • Recurrence of turbinate enlargement, which is usually due to chronic conditions like allergies

Dr. Branch can explain the potential complications in greater detail and help you determine whether the benefits offered by turbinate reduction surgery outweigh the associated risks.

Will Turbinate Reduction Surgery Help?

As with any procedure or other form of treatment, doctors cannot make guarantees about the effectiveness of turbinate reduction surgery. With that being said, if you’re experiencing chronic nasal blockages due to swollen and inflamed turbinates, there’s a good chance that turbinate reduction surgery will help relieve your symptoms.

A Trusted Local Provider Offering Nasal Blockage Treatment

Do you need treatment for a nasal blockage? If you’re in the Tampa Bay area, you won’t have to go far to get the world-class care you deserve. That’s because you can turn to the experts at Florida Medical Clinic. We have offices throughout the area, including ones in New Tampa, FL (at 15285 Amberly Drive), Zephyrhills, FL (at 36763 Eiland Boulevard), and the Watergrass community in Wesley Chapel, FL (at 7760 Curley Road). When you come in for nasal blockage treatment, we’ll confirm your diagnosis and recommend the treatment option that’s best suited to your specific needs, whether that’s turbinate reduction surgery or a different approach. Click here to request an appointment with Dr. Branch at one of these locations.

About Dr. Michael Branch, MD

Born and raised in Florida, Dr. Branch attended Wake Forest University’s Bowman Gray School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, NC. He then completed two residencies in Memphis, TN: one for general surgery at Methodist Central Hospital, and another for otolaryngology – head and neck surgery at the University of Tennessee. Dr. Branch is board certified by the American Board of Otolaryngology and specializes in nasal congestion/obstruction, chronic sinusitis, chronic ear disease, hearing loss, hearing aids, and chronic hoarseness.

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Otolaryngology

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