Inferior Turbinate Reduction

What is inferior turbinate reduction procedure?

This procedure reduces the size of the inferior turbinates in the nose. There are a variety of minimally invasive turbinate reduction procedures which can be done in-clinic under local anaesthesia or surgeries (under general anesthesia) that can reduce, remove or displace the obstructive turbinate tissue, through different cutting-edge technologies involving radiofrequency energy or conventional tissue removal.

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How does this procedure work?

Inferior turbinate reduction works by shrinking the inferior turbinates, and reducing inferior turbinate hypertrophy, thus removing the obstruction and allowing a clear flow of air through the nasal passages. Thus, the surgery reduces the size of this obstruction, while preserving the very important functions of the inferior turbinates. There are many different techniques that can achieve this. Examples of temporary but long-lasting techniques include radiofrequency inferior turbinate reduction or coblation of the inferior turbinates. Permanent techniques include powered inferior turbinoplasty or inferior turbinectomy.

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What are the benefits of this procedure?

Nasal breathing is essential to our health and well-being. Breathing through the nose cleans the air we inhale, warms it before getting to our lungs, and also increases oxygen intake by boosting innate chemicals in our nose to expand our blood vessels. 

 

These functions are primarily performed by turbinates – small structures inside the nose that filter and humidify air passing through. Sometimes these structures can become enlarged (inferior turbinate hypertrophy) and obstruct the nasal airway, subsequently leading to complications with nasal breathing, which include:

The primary benefit of inferior turbinate reduction surgery is easier breathing through the nose.  Turbinate reduction can significantly alleviate this issue, improving your quality of life.

 

Snoring

Snoring can disrupt the sleep of both the patient and their partners. Sleep is essential to leading a high-functioning, healthy daily lifestyle, and inferior turbinate reduction can restore a peaceful night’s sleep. 

 

Difficulty Sleeping

When we sleep, we tend to breathe through the nose. If turbinates are enlarged, thus preventing a clear flow of air, it can be difficult for patients to fall asleep. Inferior turbinate reduction can address this.

 

Epistaxis (nosebleeds)

Struggling to inhale air through the nasal passage can also lead to the drying of mucus membranes lining the passageway, making it more sensitive and prone to bleeding.

 

Decreased sense of smell and taste

Having a blocked nose due to turbinate enlargement often leads to a reduced sensation of smell and taste, leading to less enjoyment taken from food and even potential weight loss. 

What Are The Complications, Risks And Alternatives Of this procedure?

Bleeding

Bleeding is a possibility in any nasal or sinus surgery as the blood supply is extensive. Occasionally, significant bleeding may occur requiring termination of the procedure and nasal packing. This usually requires hospitalization for observation. Blood transfusions are rare, as is the need for subsequent surgery to control bleeding. However, certain precautions are necessary, such as the avoidance of all certain painkillers as well as supplements such as garlic, ginseng, and gingko for a period of 2 weeks before surgery. Patients on long-term blood thinning agents can still undergo surgery though their medication regime or type may need to be temporarily altered.

 

Crusting

A few days after surgery, crusts and scabs will begin to form inside the nose. These may temporarily block breathing and lead to nasal obstruction. Nasal saline irrigations are key in keeping the nose clean and free of any debris. Crusting usually resolves as the lining of the nose heals, in approximately 2-4 weeks after surgery.

 

Empty Nose Syndrome

Empty nose syndrome is a very unpleasant condition characterized by a wide open, dry nose that drips and feels blocked.  Patients complain bitterly of nasal blockage while their doctors insist that their noses are wide open.  The nose appears dry and crusty on examination, but drains constantly. This is a very rare complication of inferior turbinate reduction. With the advent of radiofrequency treatments and newer surgical treatments for the turbinates, this complication is rarely seen.

 

Alternatives to Surgery

These procedures are the only permanent ways to relieve nasal obstruction. Medical treatment such as decongestants and intranasal steroids can also be used to decrease the size of the turbinates. However, they may only provide relief when the medications are being used, with the problem returning when medication is stopped.

Is turbinate reduction surgery painful?

In general, turbinate reduction surgery is well tolerated in most patients. The combination of both local and topical anaesthesia provides a pain-free experience during the quick procedure.

what are the pros and cons of inferior turbinate reduction?

Nasal breathing is essential to our health and well-being. Breathing through the nose cleans the air we inhale, warms it before getting to our lungs, and also increases oxygen intake by boosting innate chemicals in our nose to expand our blood vessels. Turbinate reduction can help with this. 


In certain cases, over-aggressive reduction of the inferior turbinates can lead to conditions such as atrophic rhinitis and empty nose syndrome. However, with our extensive experience, this is highly unlikely to occur.

can turbinates grow back after reduction?

Inferior turbinate reduction, via powered turbinoplasty or turbinectomy is permanent. These two methods remove both turbinate tissue and bone, resulting in an overall decrease in turbinate hypertrophy. If alternative methods such as radiofrequency reduction of the inferior turbinates or coblation of the inferior turbinates are used, the patient may require a repeat procedure at a future point in time, as these methods do not involve definitive tissue or bone removal.