• Board Certified
    Philadelphia Facial Plastic Surgeon

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Cherry Hill  |  New Jersey 08003

Turbinate Reduction

Published on December 4, 2012 by

A person who has certain problems with breathing may have an issue with the turbinates — small bony structures covered with nasal lining that are located in the nasal passages. The turbinates extend into a person’s nose from the sides. They warm and humidify the air we breathe.Three sets of turbinates are present in the nose: Superior, Middle, and Inferior Turbinates. Nasal obstruction and congestion is very commonly caused by enlargement of the turbinates. Enlargement of the turbinates care be related to excess boney structure or the turbinate or swelling of lining of the turbinate, called the mucosa.

Complaints that may be related to enlargement of the turbinates include:

  • The inability to breathe through the nose on one side
  • The inability to breathe well through either side of the nose at all times
  • Fluctuating or Cyclic Nasal Congestion
  • Nasal Congestion which worsens with laying down
  • Alternating nasal obstruction on the side one lays down on (right nasal obstruction when laying down on the right which than switches side when laying down on the left).
  • Persistent Clear Runny Nose (Vasomotor Rhinitis)
  • Snoring
  • Sleep Apnea
  • Sinusitis

The inability to breathe through the nose during the spring and fall is usually attributed to allergies, but the person may also have an underlying issue with turbinates — turbinate hypertrophy (enlargement). Turbinate hypertrophy can be due to mucosal swelling or excess boney structure of the turbinate. Because the nasal airway is so small, even small enlargement of the turbinates can cause pronounced nasal congestion. Other issues may cause a person to have trouble breathing besides the turbinates. Many times turbinate hypertrophy and nasal septal deviation are the reason for nasal obstruction. Septoplasty (correction of a deviated septum) and turbinate reduction are commonly performed together to provide patients complete relief of symptoms. Enlargement of the adenoids my also cause nasal obstruction in combination with turbinate issues. Patients suffering from allergies will also have to be continually treated for their allergies after surgery in order to achieve complete relief from nasal congestion. Your doctor will be able to tell a patient if he or she has issues with turbinates or with another part of the nose.

Treatment of Turbinate Enlargement
Medical therapy and surgical options exist for treatment of turbinate hypertrophy. Medical options include decongestants, antihistamine, and corticosteroids. Many times medical therapy is not enough to correct turbinate enlargement, and surgical intervention is recommended. Many minimally invasive methods are available for treatment of turbinate hypertrophy. Many of these minimally invasive techniques can be performed under local anesthesia or IV sedation, allowing patients a quick recovery with little if any downtime.

Common Surgical Options For Turbinate Reduction


  • Radiofrequency Turbinate Reduction (Coblation)
  • Can be performed in the office under local anesthesia or in the OR under IV sedation.
  • Takes about 15 minutes.
  • Treatment for soft tissue enlargement of the turbinate.
  • Uses radiofrequency energy to shrink soft tissue enlargement of the turbinates.
  • Scar tissue is formed within the turbinate helping it to shrink and contract.
  • Little if any downtime or pain.
  • No nasal packing

Submucous Resection (SMR) of Turbinates


  • Performed in an OR setting.
  • Takes about 15 minutes.
  • Treatment for soft tissue and boney enlargement of the turbinate.
  • Uses a microdebrider: a tiny suction device that is inserted into the turbinate which delicately shaves away any excess bone or soft tissue.
  • Little if any downtime or pain.

Improvements in breathing are not expected immediately, but instead occur over time as swelling from the procedure subsides. Turbinate reduction is not a cure for seasonal allergies, and although it will improve these symptoms, allergy suffers will still need to be managed medically by their physician to get the greatest benefit from the above procedures.

Dr. Corrado is board certified in Facial Plastic Surgery and Otolaryngology (Ear, Nose & Throat Surgery) and provides expert care in treating all functional and cosmetic issues. Dr. Corrado’s nasal practice serves patients in the Philadelphia and South Jersey areas, as well as patients from around the country.