The inferior turbinates are highly vascular structures that extend from the front of the nose along the side of the nasal floor all the way back towards the opening into the throat (nasopharynx). When these structures are enlarged (hypertrophied), especially at the front of the nose, they can cause significant functional obstruction. In many instances patients with inferior turbinate hypertrophy can be managed with medical and allergy treatments. In other cases surgical reduction of the inferior turbinates may be indicated.
Submucosal resection of the turbinate may be performed as a minimally invasive method to treat the inferior turbinates. With newer techniques using powered instrumentation, the submucosal tissues of the inferior turbinate which provide the bulk of the turbinate can be removed in a fairly atraumatic fashion with a resultant decrease in the overall size of the turbinate. Another technique involves resection of the lateral aspect of the turbinate along with the bony concha. We tend to reserve this latter technique for patients with severe turbinate hypertrophy. All of these newer techniques, however, are designed to preserve the inferior turbinate’s physiological functions of warming, lubricating, and air-conditioning are preserved. Submucosal resection may also be complemented by outfracture of the turbinate bone. When combined, these two maneuvers – submucosal resection with outfracture of the inferior turbinates – is a very effective means to open the nasal airway.
Radiofrequency (RFA) treatments are also available for the inferior turbinates. In RFA, a small electrode is placed in the inferior turbinate in order to deliver a wave of energy which leads to contraction and shrinkage of the turbinate tissue. This procedure can be performed in the office with minimal down-time.
Radiofrequency Ablation of the Inferior Turbinates