What is a Turbinate Surgery, Know its Types and Procedure

What is a Turbinate Surgery?

Turbinate surgery is a procedure in which the inferior nasal tubes are reduced in size after evaluation to provide better airflow space. It is also known as inferior turbinate reduction. This article discusses the details of all you need to know about turbinate surgery.

Turbinate surgery is performed via nostrils present on both sides of the nose under the effect of general anesthesia in an operating room of the hospital. At times, turbinate surgery is also done along with some other surgeries like nasal endoscopy, sinus surgery, nasal cautery, and septoplasty to improve nasal breathing.

The main job of the turbinates, which are present inside the nose is to moisten and warm the inhaled air. So these warm blood-filled vessels of turbinates not only humidify the air but also prevents cold air reaching directly in the lungs. However, at times these vessels get enlarged and cause nasal troubles. Mostly, a turbinate reduction is accompanied by septoplasty which involves deviated septum correction of the nasal chamber.

What is a Turbinate Surgery?

Studies have shown that turbinate surgery, more so when unilateral, in carefully selected patients with nasal obstruction, is a useful adjuvant to septal surgery.1

Types of Turbinate Surgery

The size of the turbinates can be reduced in several ways. Some procedures can be less invasive and some are more invasive methods.

Procedures of turbinate surgery are mentioned below:

Coblation, Cauterization, and Radio Frequency Reduction:

In a few cases, such surgeries are done by the doctors, which can shrink turbinates even without harming or removing any underlying tissue or bone. For this, a surgeon uses a needle, which heats the turbinates by using the energy waves. It can end up in scar tissue but reduces turbinate size. This can be done by either of the methods – coblation, cauterization, and radiofrequency reduction – whichever is appropriate. This surgical procedure is easily done under the effect of local anesthesia and might take from 10 to 15 minutes. These procedures are advised for mild cases, which do not have any severe enlargement cases of turbinates.

Surgical Removal:

In other cases of turbinates, a doctor might suggest surgical removal of some part of turbinate. This type of turbinate surgery is done under general anesthesia since it involves the removal of some parts of tissue or bone to reduce the size of turbinate. Some precautions are also advised before turbinate surgery such as avoiding medications like aspirin etc. for a couple of weeks before surgery and even avoiding alcohol etc. This is mainly done to minimize any risks of bleeding.

Further, surgical removal of some underlying tissues around the turbinates is required in some severe cases which are done during the septoplasty if required. A specific septoplasty involves the correction of a deviated septum or nasal cavity by surgical cutting.

A particular turbinate surgery is only recommended by the doctor if the enlargement of turbinates obstructs some portion of the nose causing disorders due to airway like congestion, postnasal drip, difficulty breathing, and sleep apnea, etc.

How is the Turbinate Surgery Procedure Done?

Here are the details of the turbinate surgery.

Pre-Turbinate Reduction: A detailed list of instructions is provided before the turbinate reduction procedure by the doctor or nurse. It might even include what to take before the surgery and what to avoid mainly, medications like aspirin, which are blood thinners or even diabetic medications like insulin, etc. The night before turbinate surgery, the patient is instructed not to eat or drink after a specific time. Moreover, a detailed medical history of the patient is noted by the doctor before surgery to avoid any last moment complications. A detailed blood test will also be done, which helps to assess the patient’s health. Finally, before going to the operating room the patient is expected to change and remove all sort s of jewelry, contact lenses, dentures, hearing aids, etc. to avoid any chances of infection.

During the Turbinate Surgery: Turbinate reduction procedure is an important turbinate surgery, done in a single session in the hospital. It is done using an endoscope, which is a tiny tube with a light and enables the surgeon to see the inside with a better view. In this procedure, a small incision is made in the nostrils, to avoid a visible cut. The site of the incision depends upon the turbinate position as its lining will undergo an incision and even a small portion of bone might have to be removed. Another device known as microdebrider is also used by few surgeons doing the procedure since it has a rotatory knife with suction and it helps in removing the excessive surrounding tissue around the turbinate. During the procedure, even radio-frequency waves are used to destroy the surrounding tissue to prevent excessive bleeding.

Post-Turbinate Surgery: After the turbinate reduction procedure, the patient is kept under observation and is allowed to go only once the surgeon feels everything is fine. Later, the nurse guides on the after-surgery instructions and precautions to aid better healing and recovery. Few medications may be given to control pain and prevent infection. Some after-effects of turbinate reduction procedures like nausea, vomiting, dizziness, etc. can also be temporarily experienced. But these will subside eventually.

An easy to consume and digest diet contains mostly liquids or semi-liquid food is advised initially for a few days after the procedure. Very few patients experience complications later after the procedure. However, things like nasal discharge, which crusts around the nostrils are very common and applying moisturizing lotion around nostrils can help. For any prolonged fever, excessive bleeding, and unbearable pain consult your doctor immediately.


Turbinate surgery is only required when any turbinate overgrows and causes trouble or obstructs breathing. Its removal can be done in different ways depending upon its size. There is nothing scary about the procedure and it is just like a normal surgical procedure intended to rectify the problem. However, precautions before and after the surgery are mandatory to help deal with the problem without any complications. Which otherwise can impose risks of infection, if not taken care of appropriately. Knowing the details of turbinate surgery can help to discuss with your doctor and make an informed decision.