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Nasal Surgery: Turbinate Surgery

You’re scheduled to have nasal surgery. The type of nasal surgery you’re having is called turbinate surgery. Read on to learn more about what to expect during this surgery

Nose with inside structures visible. Turbinates and nasal lining are swollen. Bone is removed from turbinates.

Nose with inside structures visible. Nasal lining is normal. 

What are the turbinates?

The turbinates are located on each side inside the nose. They are curved bony ridges that are lined with mucous membrane. Mucous membrane is thin tissue that lines the insides of the nose, sinuses, and throat. It makes sticky mucus that helps clean the air in the nose of dust and other small particles. The turbinates and mucous membrane warm and moisten the air you breathe through your nose.

What to expect during turbinate surgery

This surgery repairs a blockage caused by enlarged turbinates. Incisions are made inside the nose under the lower turbinate. A laser may be used to do this. Excess bone may be removed to reduce turbinate size. Sometimes, excess mucous membrane is also removed.

Risks and possible complications

As with any surgery, nasal surgery has some risks. These include a slight risk of bleeding and infection. Your doctor will discuss any other risks and complications with you.

After turbinate surgery

After turbinate surgery, you’ll be taken to a recovery area or to your hospital room. Your experience may be as follows:

  • You may also have dressings (bandages) on the outside of your nose.

  • If you have both a septoplasty or sinus surgery and turbinate reduction (as is commonly done), you may have packing material or a plastic splint inside your nose.

  • You may also have dressing (bandages) on the outside of your nose.

  • It’s normal to have some mucus and blood drain from your nose. Until packing is removed, you may have to breathe through your mouth.

  • Expect some throat dryness and irritation after general anesthesia or intubation..

  • Pain medication will be prescribed as needed. Don’t take medication containing aspirin or ibuprofen. These can increase bleeding.

Follow-up care

You’ll need to follow up with your doctor within a week after your surgery. Here is what to expect:

  • Any packing, splint, or dressings will probably be removed. You may feel slight discomfort and bleed a little when this is done.

  • After the splint or packing is removed, you’ll most likely breathe better than you did before surgery.

  • You may have minor numbness, pain, swelling, and a little stiffness under the tip of the nose.

  • In a few days, the inside of your nose may swell and briefly block your breathing. Or, a scab or crust may block breathing for a short time. Leave the scab alone. Your doctor can remove it. Regular use of saline in the nose can help reduce and remove crusts.


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