Turbinates are tissue-covered bones located by the inside nasal walls. These thin structures regulate air flow inside the nose and keep the nasal cavity moist. Any problem with the structure of the turbinates can affect your breathing.

The Role of Nasal Turbinates

There are three levels of turbinates inside the nose. The lower or the inferior turbinate performs several functions. It not only directs the airflow, but also filters the incoming air. It also heats and moistens the air. The inside of the throat is safe from excessive dryness due to the function of the lower turbinate.

The middle turbinate protects certain nasal parts such as the olfactory bulb and the sinuses. The role of the upper or the superior turbinate is to protect the sphenoid sinuses.

The Problem With Enlarged Turbinates

Turbinates can become swollen and enlarged due to allergies, inflammation in the sinuses, nasal diseases, or due to the effect of any foreign particles inside the nose. Enlarged turbinates can block airflow and affect breathing. The problem of enlarged turbinates is called turbinate hypertrophy.

It is the lower turbinate that usually becomes enlarged, but swelling can occur in other turbinates as well. When the middle turbinates become enlarged (concha bullosa), the problem can also cause infection in the sinuses.

People who have a deviated septum are also likely to have enlarged turbinates. A deviated septum allows space on one side of the nose for the turbinates to grow bigger than their normal size.

There are many treatment options for correcting enlarged turbinates. The most common treatment is to reduce the turbinate size through surgery.

Treatment Options for Enlarged Turbinates

There are various surgeries available to address the specific problem with the enlarged turbinates.


A Turbinectomy involves the removal of the entire or a part of the lower turbinate. The procedure can be performed through different methods such as radiofrequency reduction and cauterization. These methods only shrink the turbinates without removing any part of it.

Other methods such as microdebrider resection or partial resection reduce turbinate sizes by removing parts of it. Removal of the entire turbinate is not recommended as it can create further problems in the nose. A surgery (submucosal resection) may be done to remove parts from inside the lower turbinate while leaving its lining intact.

Oftentimes a Turbinectomy is performed alongside septoplasty (surgery to correct a deviated septum). There are times when a combination of the two techniques can be used to treat the enlarged turbinates.


Turbinoplasty is a surgery that alters the shape and position of the enlarged turbinates. The method used in this surgery is called the outfracture technique. It is helpful in freeing the passage for unobstructed airflow.

Your doctor will determine the surgical technique based on the swelling in the turbinates and how it is affecting the airflow.

Surgery for enlarged turbinates produces only minor side effects such as swelling or stuffiness for a few days. Consult with a qualified ENT doctor to know more about your treatment options if you have a problem breathing normally.

Contact Our Office

Contact us to learn more about how you can address enlarged nasal turbinates with Dr. Jason Roth. He will help guide you through your options and create a plan to help provide you with the relief you desire.