What are turbinates?

There are three turbinates in each nasal passage. Each one protrudes from the sidewall of the nose. The lower or inferior turbinate is by far the largest of the three.

Turbinates are shaped like a scroll, and act to warm, humidify and filter air before it passes on to your throat. Throughout the day, the turbinates periodically change size in a pattern known as the nasal cycle. That's why at any given time, a person can usually breathe better out of one side than the other.

What is a turbinoplasty?

Turbinoplasty is the operation performed to reduce the size of the turbinate. Usually, only the inferior turbinates need correction.

Who is a good candidate for surgery?

Large turbinates can cause nasal obstruction. In some cases where a deviated septum is present, compensatory hypertrophy of the turbinate occurs on the side opposite the deviation.

The nose does its job of filtering, warming and humidifying when the oncoming airstream is about 2-3 millimeters wide. If the airway is too large on one side, the turbinates compensate by getting bigger.

That is why turbinate surgery is sometimes necessary when the septum is straightened. Sometimes your doctor will recommend turbinate surgery if medication is not effective in opening your air passages.

How is the turbinate surgery performed?

Most turbinate surgery is performed under general anesthesia in the operating room. Special instruments are used to remove bone inside the turbinate or the fleshy outer portion is removed.

Since the surgical area is not closed with sutures, temporary packing mad of absorbable collagen is placed. This packing will either disintegrate or fall out after a few days. Most patients go home the same day. The typical operation usually takes less than an hour.

What is the recovery from surgery like?

For the first 24 hours, you may experience some nausea, and you should avoid eating substantial amounts of food. The nose has a tendency to ooze blood for a few days. During this time, it is helpful to wear a small gauze pad (drip pad) beneath the nostrils. Limiting strenuous activity and keeping the head elevated will cut down on much of this oozing. Swelling will occur inside the nose, but most of the swelling is gone by two weeks.

When should I come back to the doctor?

Most patients need to come back the week after surgery for a check up. Your doctor will anesthetize the inside of your nose with a spray and remove any large clots or remnants of the collagen sponge material.

When can I go back to work?

Workers that perform heavy tasks should avoid work for two weeks. After 2 weeks, patients may resume their normal exercise routines. Some office-type workers are able to return to work after 4-5 days to read mail, make phone calls and do some work with the computer. Despite this, most patients are fatigued easily, and find that they can't work a full day until 9-11 days after surgery.

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