The inferior turbinates are structures inside your nose which can sometimes be enlarged and block the breathing passage on one or both sides of the nose. The turbinates have a thin piece of bone in their center which provides support, and otherwise are primarily composed of erectile vascular tissue which can expand and contract depending on bloodflow and other factors. In patients with allergies and other inflammatory conditions, the turbinates tend to be swollen most of the time and obstruct nasal breathing.
Many patients with nasal congestion and enlarged turbinates will improve with medications. I will typically prescribe a nasal steroid spray first. After using this spray for several weeks, I will see you back in the office to see if your symptoms have improved. If you are still having significant congestion, you may be a good candidate for a turbinate reduction procedure.
Turbinate reduction can be done in the office with local anesthesia or under sedation in the operating room depending on patient comfort levels. In the office, it usually takes 15-20 minutes start to finish, including time for the nose to be completely numbed. Most adults are able to tolerate the procedure without significant difficulty in the office.
There are 3 rounds of numbing and decongesting medication before the actual procedure. First I spray them in both sides of the nose, then I will place thin pieces of cotton soaked in the medicines into the nose. After these sit for 5 minutes, I remove them and then inject the turbinates with more numbing medication.
The actual procedure only takes a couple minutes. I insert a thin needle-like electric probe into each turbinate and then slowly pull it back out while it emits an electric current which damages the erectile tissue layer inside of the turbinate. I will repeat this several times on each side. After completing each side, I will place thin gauze back into the nose which will stay for several minutes until you are ready to leave.
After the procedure, you may feel more stuffy for a few days while the inside of the nose is healing. Soon, you should notice that it is easier to breathe than before the procedure. There is a low risk of nosebleed and crusting after the procedure, so be sure to use nasal saline spray 3-4 times per day for 2 weeks after the procedure.
Turbinate reduction helps to open the breathing passages, but it does not cure underlying problems like allergy. You may still get congested after the procedure but in most people it is not nearly as bad as before. You should also know that the insides of the turbinates may grow back over the next few years and you might need the procedure again.
Call (512) 550-0321 if you have any questions or to schedule an appointment!