Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) physicians are using a quick, new outpatient procedure to relieve stuffy noses in people suffering from chronic nasal obstruction that is caused by turbinate enlargement. Physicians are using a new technology called somnoplasty, which uses radiofrequency to reduce the enlarged tissue in a stuffed-up nose.
What are Turbinates?
The turbinates are projections of soft tissue on the side walls inside the nasal cavity. They warm, humidify, and filter the air you breathe and are sometimes called the "thermostats" of the nose. Turbinates are constantly changing in size enlarging and contracting in cycles as they warm, humidify, and filter the air. When they become inflamed or enlarged for any reason, nasal blockage occurs.
Nasal congestion and obstruction that alternate from the left to right is caused by the turbinates. Turbinate enlargement can also cause a pressure sensation in the nose and face, also alternating from one side to another. Tiredness and fatigue are common symptoms, as well as facial pain, and headaches. A person with chronic turbinate enlargement can have poor sleep patterns, waking up during the night due to nasal blockage. Snoring is also common with a patient complaining of nasal blockage. Enlarged turbinates can lead to dry mouth, thick post nasal drainage, and dry throat. They can also block normal sinus drainage, causing chronic sinus problems.
Turbinate enlargement can be caused by many things. As we grow older, the turbinates gradually thicken, narrowing the nasal airway. In addition to this normal process, allergies and infections can cause turbinate enlargement. Any chronic irritation or inflammation, caused by factors such as weather and temperature changes, stress, fatigue, medications and hormone changes from thyroid disorders and pregnancy, can lead to swelling of the turbinates. Allergies and infections can be treated with specific medications, but other causes of turbinates enlargement often do not respond to medical treatment.
Treatment for Enlarged Turbinates
Medical management is always recommended before any surgical procedure. Medical treatments for a stuffy nose included avoiding exposure to the factors that cause rhinitis and taking antihistamines, decongestants, and corticosteroids. These medications provide only temporary relief of symptoms and sometimes cause drowsiness, rebound nasal congestion and burning. Long-standing swelling of the nasal turbinates may become chronic or irreversible and medications may no longer be effective. Once the turbinates become responsive to medications and there are bothersome symptoms, surgery is usually recommended. Other surgical options are steroid injections, cautery, and laser-assisted turbinate reduction. A submucous resection (removing the bone and leaving the soft tissue intact) or partial resection of the turbinate are performed in an operating room and require nasal packing for several days. They are often performed in conjunction with nasal septum surgery for breathing improvement.
Advantages of Somnoplasty
Somnoplasty uses low-power, low-temperature radiofrequency energy to gently reduce the amount of tissue. The procedure also destroys small blood vessels responsible for the enlargement of the turbinate so that they cannot swell. Some patients experience minor discomfort during the administration of local anesthesia and a slight feeling of heat during the procedure. Since the delicate mucous layer of the turbinate is preserved, there is very little crusting, bleeding, or swelling. Most patients do not require pain medication and can return to work the same day without nasal packing. Over the next three to six weeks, the patient should start to experience improved nasal airflow.
If you suffer from chronic nasal obstruction, the Somnoplasty procedure may be the solution. Your physician can evaluate your situation and determine whether you are a candidate.