Enlargement of Nasal Turbinates

What are nasal turbinates?

Diagram of sinus anatomy showing the turbinatesNasal turbinates are cylindrical-shaped structures within the nasal passages. These consist of the superior, middle, and lower nasal turbinates. Their purpose is to filter and humidify the air we breathe.  When nasal turbinate enlargement is present, this can cause trouble breathing through the nose.

The lower nasal turbinates may become the cause of nasal congestion and obstruction. This occurs when the mucous membrane that lines the turbinates becomes permanently swollen. 

The medical terminology for this is inferior turbinate hypertrophy. This may occur in such conditions as nasal allergies, deviated nasal septum, chronic sinusitis and non-allergic rhinitis.

What are the treatment options for Nasal turbinate enlargement?

Medical treatment of nasal turbinate enlargement causing nasal obstruction includes use of nasal steroid sprays, hypertonic saline nasal irrigations and other allergy treatments when appropriate.  When medical treatment is not entirely effective, a procedure called turbinate reduction or modification can be employed. The goal of this procedure is to improve breathing through the nose.

This procedure may be performed by itself or in conjunction with correction of deviated nasal septum as well as endoscopic surgery for chronic sinusitis.  The procedure consists of using a 3 mm wide suction device that is placed underneath the mucous membrane lining in the turbinates to remove excessive tissue.  This can be performed under general anesthesia or comfortably in the office under local anesthesia.  Nasal packing is not required.