by Buck D


A submucosal resection of the turbinate is removal of bone from the lower turbinates. The turbinates are 3 sets of structures that line the inside wall of the nasal cavity. They are made of small bones that are surrounded by soft tissue. These turbinates filter, moisten, and heat air as it enters the nose.

Submucosal resection of turbinates may be done in combination with a septoplasty .

nucleus fact sheet image
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Reasons for Procedure

Turbinates can be come enlarged and make it difficult to breathe through your nose. Submucosal resection of turbinates reduces the size of the turbinates to open up the airway. It may be done to:

  • Relieve blockage in the nasal passages
  • Improve breathing through the nose by increasing air flow and moisture
  • Reduce postnasal drip and excess drainage

Possible Complications

Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like:

  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Persistent nasal blockage or sinus problems
  • Change in your breathing
  • Numbness in your teeth or nose
  • Perforated septum
  • Altered smell, taste, or vision
  • Repeat procedures
  • Rare, but serious complications include toxic shock syndrome and meningitis

What to Expect

Prior to Procedure

Your doctor may do the following before your surgery:

  • Physical exam
  • Blood tests
  • Imaging tests to see internal nasal structures

Before your procedure:

  • Avoid eating or drinking after midnight the night before.
  • Talk to your doctor if you take any medications, herbs, or supplements. You may need to stop taking some medications up to one week before the procedure.

Your doctor will recommend that you stop smoking up to a month before the procedure. Smoking leads to an increase in scar tissue and poor healing that affects the success of the surgery.


Depending on the extent of the surgery, you may have:

Description of the Procedure

A thin, lighted tube will be inserted into your nose. An incision will be made in the soft tissue of the turbinate to expose the bone. A piece of the bone will be removed or shaved down. Excess tissue around the turbinate may also be removed. The tissue may be removed with surgical cut, radiofrequency, or electrical heat. Packing may be placed around the area to help stop bleeding.

How Long Will It Take?

1-2 hours

Will It Hurt?

Anesthesia will block pain during the procedure. You will have pain after the procedure. Ask your doctor about medication to help manage pain.

Post-procedure Care

At the Care Center

Right after the procedure, you will be in a recovery room where your blood pressure, pulse, and breathing will be monitored. Recovery may also include:

  • Pain medications
  • Decongestant nasal sprays
  • Antibiotics to prevent infection
  • Medication to prevent blood clots

At Home

The feeling of stuffiness is common after surgery because of swelling. Nasal sprays will help keep your nasal passageways moist, clean debris like dried blood, and assist in healing.

When you return home, avoid strenuous activities until your doctor says it is safe to do so—probably about 2 weeks.

Call Your Doctor

Contact your doctor if your recovery is not progressing as expected or you develop complications, such as:

  • Signs of infection, including fever and chills
  • Increase in bleeding or discharge
  • Vision problems
  • Severe headache or neck stiffness
  • Persistent nosebleeds

If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.


American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery 

Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians 


Canadian Society of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery 

The College of Family Physicians of Canada 


Brunworth J, Holmes J, Sindwani R. Inferior turbinate hypertrophy: review and graduated approach to surgical management. Am J Rhinol Allergy. 2013;27(5):411-415.

Reduction of turbinates. ENT Consent Patient Resource website. Available at: Updated October 23, 2004. Accessed December 18, 2017.

Septoplasty & turbinate surgery. American Rhinologic Society website. Available at: Updated February 17, 2015. Accessed December 18, 2017.

Turbinate reduction. Johns Hopkins Sinus Center website. Available at: Accessed December 18, 2017.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Donald W. Buck II, MD
  • Review Date: 11/2018
  • Update Date: 12/09/2014