What are the Nasal Turbinates?
The nasal turbinates are structures located on the sidewalls of the nasal cavity that project inward. They function to warm, humidify, and filter the air we breathe. There are several turbinates in each nasal cavity, but the inferior turbinates are the largest.
Why Might a Turbinate Reduction Be Needed?
In some cases, the inferior turbinates can become enlarged due to chronic inflammation from allergies or other factors. When turbinates enlarge, they obstruct airflow through the nasal passages. This leads to chronic nasal congestion, difficulty breathing through the nose, and mouth breathing.
The Turbinate Reduction Procedure
A turbinate reduction, also called a turbinectomy, is a surgery to decrease the size of enlarged inferior turbinates. It creates more space for airflow. The surgery is performed under general anesthesia. There are two main approaches:
- Extramural Turbinate Reduction: This removes less than 25% of the turbinate tissue. It has a shorter recovery time of 4-5 days.
- Intramural Turbinate Reduction: This reducing turbinate size from the inside to preserve the outer mucosa. Recovery is 1-2 weeks.
Limitations and Considerations
- A turbinectomy will not cure underlying nasal allergies. Allergy management is still needed.
- No more than 25% of a turbinate should be removed to avoid empty nose syndrome.
- Some patients may need a second turbinate reduction if the first is not fully effective.
- Postoperative care involves managing pain, nasal drainage, congestion, and fatigue as the turbinates heal over 1-2 weeks. Saline spray helps.
When is a Turbinate Reduction Recommended?
A turbinate reduction may help treat chronic nasal obstruction and difficulty breathing when enlarged turbinates are the primary cause. It is considered after failure of medical management. The risks and benefits should be carefully considered.