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Turbinate Hypertrophy

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Turbinate hypertrophy means an enlargement of the turbinates. Your turbinates are small structures within the nose that cleanse, humidify and filter air as you inhale. Turbinates are tiny spongy bones on both sides of the nose and naturally change in size, particularly when you lie down as blood collects in the blood vessels.

Turbinate anatomy

People have three, or sometimes four, sections of turbinates. From bottom to top, they are the inferior, middle, and superior turbinates, and some people have a fourth set called the supreme turbinates. The inferior turbinates are responsible for directing airflow, the middle turbinates protect the sinuses, and the superior turbinates house the smell receptors.

If the inferior turbinates are enlarged, normal airflow is compromised during exercise, sleep or even at rest. When a person has a deviated septum, the effect is even more pronounced, because the structures within the nose will grow to fill open areas. This means that if the septum is deviated to one side, the turbinate on the opposite side will tend to grow larger.

Turbinates become hypertrophic (enlarged) usually due to inflammation connected to seasonal or environmental allergies. They may also become hypertrophic due to chronic sinusitis or chemical irritants.

Turbinate hypertrophy symptoms

Enlarged turbinates make you feel though you can’t breathe well through one or both sides of the nose, especially when you are in a reclined position. Many of the symptoms of turbinate hypertrophy overlap with septal deviation, especially if an individual has both conditions.

Symptoms of hypertrophic turbinates include:

  • Congested nasal breathing
  • Difficulty breathing at night and snoring
  • Chronic nosebleeds
  • Chronic sinus infections

Surgical treatment

Medical treatment is available for turbinate hypertrophy, but when medication treatment fails, surgical treatment can effectively decrease the size of the inferior turbinates. Turbinate reduction surgery is also called a turbinoplasty or turbinectomy, and the goal of the procedure is to decrease airway resistance while still preserving the function of the turbinates.

A common technique to shrink the turbinates involves making a small incision inside the nose and removing some of the blood vessels with a tool that leaves the mucosal surface intact. The turbinates may also be decreased in size by using an alternative procedure known as cauterization.

The surgery is usually performed under general anesthesia on an outpatient basis. However, more and more frequently, the procedure can be performed in-office under local anesthesia. Turbinoplasty does not involve any cutting through the skin and is performed entirely through the nostrils, meaning no outward scars result. Patients are able to go home the same day as surgery.

Turbinate hypertrophy surgery risks

Apart from the usual risks of surgery, such as infection, bleeding and adverse reaction to anesthesia, specific risks of turbinoplasty include:

  • Crusting inside the nose.
  • Dryness, which can be alleviated with a saline spray solution.
  • Scarring inside the nose.
  • Empty nose syndrome, a rare complication of excessive surgical removal of the inferior turbinates, causing chronic nasal dryness and a feeling of nasal obstruction and breathing difficulties. Chronic fatigue may result from poor breathing at night.

Do you have breathing difficulties while lying down, or are you experiencing trouble sleeping at night from the inability to breathe through your nose? You may have turbinate hypertrophy. Please call West Medical ENT/Sinus Surgery today at (855) 690-0565 to set up a consultation and learn more about your treatment options.

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