What is a Turbinate Reduction?

What is a turbinate reduction? I see that it's often done with the septoplasty - are they always done together? Would I need both to help my breathing?

Doctor Answers 13

Turbinate Reduction Often Very Helpful

Have you ever tried Afrin?  Afrin is a drug whose most notable affect is to shrink the soft tissue part of your turbinates.  As mentioned, the turbinates are outcroppings from the sidewall of your nose on the inside.  The largest is the lower (inferior) one and it is usually about as big around as a pencil and about 2 inches long running parallel to the ground (when you are standing). 

For the most part, the differences you have in breathing through your nose from day to day or even minute to minute are a result of the turbinates swelling or shrinking.  If Afrin clears your nose up, then turbinate reduction surgery will probably have positive affect.  A partial removal of the turbinate is what I prefer as I find it to be most affective (I have had that surgery done to myself).  Some surgeons use radio frequency energy or a coblator to "scar down" the turbinate.  I don't find this to work as well in the long term.  The down side to surgical partial excision of the turbinate is that it takes about 6 weeks to completely heal.  You will have some crusting in your nose while they heal.

You don't want to completely remove the turbinates.  Your nose may be dry and uncomfortable with excessive removal.  They do serve a purpose which is to warm, filter, and humidify the air.

Austin Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 30 reviews

What turbinate reduction?

 There are 3 sets of turbinates on each side of the nose. These are the superior, middle, and inferior turbinates. The inferior turbinates of the only ones that are operated upon for airflow obstruction in the nose. The turbinates are fingerlike projections on the inside of the nose warm and humidify air as  it is breathing in.  Many patients have hypertrophy of the turbinates due to allergies, hormones,  altitude and air pressure changes and sinus problems and may end up becoming enlarged and blocking the air flow through the nose. There are multiple procedures that can be performed to reduce the size of  the turbinates such as submucous resection of the turbinates and outfracture.

William Portuese, MD
Seattle Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 143 reviews

Septoplasty and Turbinate Reduction Are Separate Procedures

The turbinates are small bones with overlying mucosa which line the outside wall on both sides of your nose. They provide some turbulance to the air in your nose and help to warm and moisturize the air coming in. Turbinate reductions are different from septoplasty surgery and not always performed at the same time, but can be performed at the same time. There are many ways to reduce the size of the turbinates and non are clearly superior to any other although usually the inferior, or lowest. of the three turbinates is treated by these surgical procedures.

D.J. Verret, MD
Dallas Facial Plastic Surgeon
3.9 out of 5 stars 14 reviews

Turbinate Reduction

The turbinates are three sea shell like erectile structures which project from the side walls of the nose which warm the air, convert the incoming air into laminar flow and trap dust and particulate matter. The lower or inferior turbinates are the largest and are frequently enlarged in cases of septal deviation and allergies.

When increasing the entry space available for air to flow through the nose not only is it necessary to swing a rotated/deviated septum back to the midline, but often the inferior turbinate(s) which is commonly enlarged on the opposite side may have to be reduced to increase the nasal airway dimensions. There are various methods to reduce the inferior turbinates.

Peter A. Aldea, MD
Memphis Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 108 reviews

Turbinate Reduction

Great question. The nasal turbinates are "punching bag" like structures in the nose that are responsible for warming and humidifying the air you breathe through your nose. In addition they are very important structures for "sensing" or the ability to feel air flowing through the nose. In just about everyone the inferior turbinates are way more swollen than they need to be. Also they are often crowding the nose and contributing to the nasal obstruction. A turbinate reduction is a procedure to shrink the turbinates. I also use what is called an "out fracture" to move them out of the way as well. It is a very effective technique for improving breathing. You do wan to make sure it is performed by an expert nasal surgeon however because an overly aggressive turbinate surgery may leave some patients with an inability to "sense" their airflow. In expert hands however this is an exceedingly effective and safe technique. Hope this helps. 

Julian W. Dixon, MD
Chicago Facial Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 7 reviews

Turbinate reduction can be very helpful

The nasal turbinates are bony structures covered by a mucous membrane lining the inside of the nose.  There are 3-4 turbinates on each side of the nose (inferior, middle, superior, and sometimes supreme).  Generally, the inferior turbinate is the most common of these to contribute to nasal obstruction as the majority of nasal airflow is through the inferior part of the nose.  The turbinates will swell in response to inflammation, which is often caused by nasal allergies.  The nasal obstruction related to enlarged turbinates tends to alternate from side to side as part of the nasal cycle.  This swelling may respond to a nasal steroid spray (like Flonase, Nasonex, etc) used on a daily basis over the course of 4-6 weeks, but many times, the turbinates remain enlarged and continue to cause nasal obstruction despite medical treatment.  

Many patients also have nasal obstruction caused by a deviated septum, which will not respond to a nasal steroid spray or any other nasal decongestant because this is a fixed obstruction of bone or cartilage. 

While it is very common to shrink the turbinates at the time of septoplasty, your surgeon should perform a thorough history and physical exam to determine which procedures would benefit you the most. 

Matthew Richardson, MD
Frisco Facial Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 2 reviews

Turbinate Reduction?

The superior, middle, and inferior turbinates are outcroppings of the inner aspect of the lateral nasal passage which increase the surface area of the nasal mucosa.  The function of these structures is to warm and humidify the air that we breathe.  Enlargement of any or all of the turbinates can be secondary to anatomical air cells in the bone that forms the turbinates or due to allergy.  Although turbinate resection/ reduction has been heavily utilized in the past, its efficacy is questionable and over-resection leads to distinct problems.  If the issue the patient is suffering from is allergy, it makes more sense to treat the allergy than to treat the turbinate anatomically.

Stephen Prendiville, MD
Fort Myers Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 93 reviews

Turbinate Reduction

Turbinate reduction is generally performed to decrease the size of the inferior nasal turbinates. Turbinate reduction It is usually undertaken to improve symptomatic nasal airway obstruction when the size of positioning of the turbinates is judged to contribute to those symptoms. Turbinate reduction is often performed in conjunction with septoplasty, but they are not always performed together. Whether or not one or the other of these procedures are indicated in your case would depend upon your symptoms and the surgeon's findings during physical examination. For individualized advice, consult with a qualified nasal surgeon about your concerns. Good luck to you.

James M. Pearson, MD
Los Angeles Facial Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 129 reviews

Turbinate Reduction

Turbinate reduction is often done with septal reconstruction. It is often done together to optimize breathing. This is to regulate the airflow that needs to be altered if you’re having functional nasal surgery.

Rod J. Rohrich, MD
Dallas Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 63 reviews

Turbinate procedures can be useful

The turbinates are bones located on the side walls of your nose.  They can swell in size and block the breathing passage.  There are many techniques to reduce the size of the turbinates.  Surgery on the turbinates can be done alone or in combination with another nasal procedure.

Robert Mounsey, MD
Toronto Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.7 out of 5 stars 11 reviews

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.