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What is a turbinectomy?

Turbinates are bony shelves in your nose covered by tissue and help with the flow of air through your nose.  Sometimes these can become enlarged causing a blockage to your nose.  A Turbinectomy is a surgical procedure which involves the partial or complete removal of the tissue or bone from swollen turbinates in the nasal passage.

I have a question about turbinectomy

Why would I need a turbinectomy?

Normally, the turbinates which are bony structures covered by soft tissue (mucosa) inside the nose, swell and shrink to regulate airflow, warm and humidify the air you inhale.

However, your turbinates may swell too much and block the passage of air which causes the sensation of a nasal blockage. If other medical treatments haven’t helped these symptoms, a turbinectomy may be considered.

Sometimes the procedure will be combined with other nose surgeries such as a septoplasty (deviated septum surgery) or sinus surgery.

What are the causes of swollen turbinates?

Swollen turbinates, also known as turbinate hypertrophy, is usually caused when the tissue covering the turbinate bone becomes enlarged. Turbinate hypertrophy can be an acute (one time) or chronic (ongoing) problem. Here are some of the causes:

  • Upper respiratory infection, or the common cold
  • Acute sinus infection
  • Allergic rhinitis or non-allergic rhinitis
  • Chronic rhinosinusitis
  • Medications
  • Hormonal changes

Other related factors or conditions that can cause nasal blockage include a deviated septum or another sinus disease.

What are the symptoms of a blocked nasal passage?

The most common symptoms of a blocked nasal passage include:

  • Difficulty breathing through the nose
  • Nasal stuffiness, blockage and congestion when lying down
  • Congestion in alternating sides of the nose
  • Noisy breathing or breathing through the mouth while asleep
  • Increased nasal drainage

How are swollen turbinates in the nasal passageway diagnosed?

In your initial consultation at our hospital, one of our expert ENT consultants will ask you to explain the issues you’re having with your nose. To diagnose the problem, you will be required to have an endoscopy which involves the insertion of a fine camera (an endoscope) into the nose to inspect the inside of the nasal passageways. An investigation into any allergies will also be arranged.

The results of these examinations will determine whether you have swollen turbinates and consequently, the appropriate surgery will be advised.

How are blocked nasal passages treated?

Surgery to remove turbinates is known as a turbinectomy. A turbinectomy can be performed using diathermy, where an electric current is passed through a needle and onto the surface – or beneath the surface of – the turbinate. The heat destroys the tissue cells and causes the tissues to shrinks. A turbinectomy can also be performed by trimming part of the turbinate – removing the bone and covering the exposed area with tissue.

What is the difference between turbinoplasty and turbinectomy?

Both a turbinoplasty and turbinectomy are categorised as nose surgeries. If enlarged, swollen turbinates in your nasal passageway are making it difficult to breathe through your nose, one of these surgical operations may be recommended so that you can breathe clearly again.

In a turbinoplasty, the turbinates are reshaped to reduce them. Whereas in a turbinectomy, some or all of the turbinates are cut out and removed.

What happens during a turbinectomy operation?

During a turbinectomy, you will be administered general anaesthesia. The Consultant will then perform the operation entirely through the nasal passageways without any external cuts. An endoscope and other instruments will be used to partially or completely remove the patients’ turbinates.

How long does it take to recover from turbinate surgery?

After your turbinectomy operation, you may experience some swelling of your nose, upper lip, cheeks or around your eyes. Some bruising may also appear around your nose and eyes. A drip pad may be placed under your nose to collect mucus and blood, this will need to be changed when it bleeds through which is often every hour for 24 hours after surgery.

Your nose will be sore and bleed and you may feel like you have a bad head cold. This lasts for several days after surgery. The tip of your nose, upper lip and gum may feel numb but sensations will return in a few weeks to a few months.

Many patients report having a reduced sense of smell after surgery but this returns to normal in one to two months. You can go back to work about one week after turbinectomy but would need to take care to avoid being near groups of people for two weeks to avoid getting an infection, such as a cold. It takes a few weeks for you to return back to your normal routine. Overall, it takes one to two months to feel fully recovered from turbinectomy surgery.

Our ENT Consultants

Mr Balfour

Alistair Balfour

Consultant ENT Surgeon

Mr Balfour's specialties include thyroid surgery, head and neck surgery and rhinology.

Mr Fu

Bertram Fu

ENT Consultant

Mr Fu is a qualified Rhinologist with a special interest in nasal and sinus conditions. His specialities include otolaryngology and rhinology.

Mr Vikram Dhar

Vikram Dhar

Consultant ENT Surgeon

Mr Dhar is a specialist ENT Consultant at Benenden Hospital

Contact us about turbinectomy procedures

It's easy to find out more about treatment by giving us a call or completing our enquiry form.