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Turbinate Surgery
There are three turbinates in each nasal passage protruding from the sidewall of the nose. The
inferior turbinate is by far the largest of the three. They are composed of bone, submucosa, and
mucosa. Turbinates are shaped like a scroll, and act to warm, humidify and filter air before it
passes on to your throat and lower airways. Turbinates periodically change size become
congested and decongested throughout the day in a pattern known as the nasal cycle. This is why
during certain times of the day, a person can usually breathe better out of one side than the other.
Large turbinates can contribute to nasal obstruction. In some cases where a deviated septum is
also present, compensatory hypertrophy of the turbinate can occur on the side opposite the septal
deviation. This is because 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 enlarging. That is why turbinate surgery is sometimes necessary when
the septum is straightened. Surgery may be recommended if nasal obstruction is not improved
with medications such as intranasal steroids.

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

Most turbinate surgery is performed under general anesthesia in the operating room, however
certain turbinate procedures may be carried out in the office setting in select patients. Special
instruments are used to remove the submucosa or spongy outer portion of the turbinate. A very
small amount of bone may be removed as well. It is important that the turbinate not be removed
completely because its removal will result in a very dry, crusty nose that is unable to adequately
humidify and warm the air. Occasionally, turbinate tissue will re-grow after turbinate surgery
and the procedure may need to be repeated. This is preferable to the situation of totally removing
the turbinate. Temporary packing or splints may be placed. The typical operation usually takes
less than an hour.