Turbinates are the portion of your nose that works to warm and moisten the air we breathe. The turbinates are filled with warm blood vessels which work to humidify the air, keeping cold air from reaching our lungs. Unfortunately these vessels can also become enlarged. 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 article will focus on turbinate reduction as a stand alone procedure.
Before Turbinate Reduction
Prior to your turbinate reduction you will receive explicit instructions from your doctor 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 usually 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. 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.
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 doctor or nurse will give you specific instructions on how to take care of yourself. Your doctor's instructions supersede the advice given in this article. However, you will most likely be prescribed medication, such as Percocet or Lortab 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.
Many people have a nasal discharge that may result in crusting around the nostrils. Your doctor may recommend using a cool mist humidifier or Vaseline around your nostrils to help with this. You may also be instructed to use a saline nasal spray. You should call your doctor 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.
The John Hopkins Sinus Center. Turbinate Reduction. Accessed: July 21, 2009 from http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/sinus/surgical_procedures/turbinate_reduction.html
VCU Health Systems. Department of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery. Accessed: July 17, 2009 from http://www.vcu.edu/ent/docs/septoplasty_1.pdf