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An overview of Turbinate Surgery

On each side of the nose exists an inferior turbinate, which is responsible for cleaning and humidifying the air as it moves through the nose and into the lungs. When this structure swells and becomes enlarged, it results in congestion and breathing difficulties. The goal of turbinate surgery is to reduce the size of the inferior turbinate and restore your ability to breathe with ease.

For most patients, turbinate surgery can successfully:

  • Improve nasal breathing
  • Minimize postnasal drip
  • Reduce nasal drainage

The anatomy of the inferior turbinate

The inferior turbinate is an elongated structure inside the nose. It is about the size of an adult index finger and composed of an inner floating bone wrapped with a mucosal lining. Both the bone and the lining affect the turbinate’s size and shape. The primary function of the inferior turbinate is to humidify the air as it passes through the nose, although it helps to heat and filter the air as well. As such, it plays a critical role in ensuring optimal nasal breathing.

In terms of location, there is an inferior turbinate on each side of the nose, resting against the nasal passage way and running parallel to the septum. There is a superior and middle turbinate as well, though the inferior structures are the most intimately involved with routine nasal breathing. As such, they are the turbinates that are most commonly addressed during this procedure.

Turbinate Reduction Miami

What to expect during your procedure

There are a number of techniques available for turbinate surgery, and all of them are performed entirely within the nose. As such, there are no external incisions or visible scarring. To begin the procedure, your Miami ear, nose and throat physician will use a small, lighted endoscope to obtain a magnified view of the area. He or she will then use tiny surgical tools to make a small incision in the mucosal lining of the turbinates. From there, your surgeon will likely use a blend of the following approaches:

Radiofrequency ablation. With radiofrequency ablation, your surgeon will reduce the size of the turbinates from the inside out. Using a needle-like instrument, he or she will transmit energy to the lining of the turbinates to damage the area and reduce its size. This surgery is performed under local anesthesia, and lasts about ten minute as an outpatient procedure.

Cautery of the turbinates. This approach requires general anesthesia and can be performed as an outpatient procedure. Using a fine probe, your surgeon will administer high levels of heat to shrink the mucosal lining down to size.

Reduction of the turbinate bone. Both radiofrequency ablation and cautery of the turbinates only addresses the mucosal lining. In many cases, the inner bone is also too large and must be reduced as well. When this occurs, your surgeon will make a small incision along the front border of the lining to expose the bone underneath. Through that opening, he or she will then reduce and reposition the turbinate bone to improve nasal breathing.

Enlarged turbinates often accompany a deviated septum. As such, turbinate reduction surgery is very often performed with a septoplasty to ensure that all structural problems contributing to breathing difficulties are successfully resolved.

Recovery + Results

Following turbinate surgery, most SFENTA patients experience an immediate and substantial improvement in their symptoms. These results often continue to progress over the next few weeks as the area heals.

There is a fairly substantial recovery period associated with turbinate surgery. Many patients experience some degree of discomfort in the treatment area, which can be managed with prescribed pain medication. Some dizziness, nausea, vomiting and drowsiness can also be expected, along with nasal discharge and crusting. It’s important to leave any crusting alone, as peeling it off could cause bleeding.

In most cases, the effects of surgery will dissipate shortly. After about one week, you will return to your surgeon’s Miami office so that he or she can remove all dressings and evaluate your progress. In general, most patients can expect a full recovery within two weeks.

What are the risks?

Turbinate reduction surgery is very safe, especially when it’s performed by a board-certified ear, nose and throat physician. However, all surgeries carry some degree of risk, and a turbinate reduction is no different. These risks include:

  • Infection and excessive bleeding
  • An inability to correct breathing difficulties
  • Regrowth of the turbinate tissue
  • Perpetual dry nose

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SFENTA physicians have performed countless successful turbinate reduction procedures for patients in Miami and throughout Florida. Contact us today to schedule an initial consultation and begin planning for your surgery.

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