The septum is the bony cartilage wall between the two sides of your nose. It helps support your nose and guides airflow. The septum is supposed to be straight, but sometimes it’s not, due to injury or other factors. A crooked or deviated septum can make it hard to breathe through your nose and prevent proper drainage. This may make you more likely to get a sinus infection (sinusitis).
The turbinates are delicate, bony, scroll-like structures in your nose. The mucous lining of the turbinates is very important because it filters and humidifies the air you breathe before it enters your lungs, and keeps your nose moist.
If your septum is crooked, then one half of the inside of your nose is larger. The turbinates may adjust by getting bigger, too, and make the blockage worse. This is why a powered septoplasty with turbinoplasty is often performed.
A powered septoplasty with turbinoplasty is mainly performed to improve your breathing and sinus drainage.
During a septoplasty, your Ear, Nose, and Throat surgeon straightens your septum so that air can flow through both sides of your nose normally. In a turbinoplasty, the goal is to reduce the turbinates enough to improve your breathing and sinus drainage, while preserving enough tissue for normal turbinate function.
A special instrument called a microdebrider has a tiny curved tip that helps the surgeon put the instrument where it’s needed to straighten your septum and reduce your turbinates. Because this equipment is more precise, there’s less risk of removing too much tissue and causing unwanted complications.
The main benefit of this surgery is that you should be able to breathe more freely and will probably have fewer sinus infections. Like other FESS procedures, it’s minimally invasive and you can usually go home the same day.
Be sure to ask your doctor for a detailed explanation of the benefits and risks of this procedure, as well as his or her experience performing it.
By allowing a more precise, targeted removal of tissue, the microdebrider helps your surgeon correct the deviation and save healthy tissue. Other benefits include:
Sometimes the turbinates can regrow or form scar tissue, and the sinus infections come back. But for many patients, the results of a powered turbinoplasty last significantly longer compared to other turbinate surgery methods.1,2 Additional benefits include:
All surgery carries some risk from anesthesia and possible infection. Be sure to ask your doctor about potential complications from your procedure.
Surgery to treat a deviated septum is generally safe, but there are a few risks. If too much tissue is removed, you could have a collapsed septum, making the nose look deformed, or a perforated septum, a hole in the septum that whistles when you breathe and can cause bleeding.
In some cases, the septum reshapes itself back to the deviated position. This is because the cartilage has some memory, like a spring, and wants to return to its original shape. Rare complications include bleeding, numbness of the front teeth, and a reduced or complete loss of the sense of smell.
While turbinate surgery is generally safe, there are a few risks. The main risk is removing too much tissue, which means the turbinates can’t warm and humidify the air you breathe. The result is a permanently dry, crusty nose that can be painful.
Though uncommon, other risks of turbinate surgery include bleeding, chronic nasal inflammation, and a loss of the sense of smell.
Yanez C, Mora N. Inferior turbinate debriding technique: ten-year results. Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg 2008;138:170-5.
Sacks R, Thornton MA, Boustred RN. Modified endoscopic turbinoplasty - long term results compared to submucosal electrocautery and submucosal powered turbinoplasty. Presented at the American Rhinologic Society, May 14, 2005.
Information on this site should not be used as a substitute for talking with your doctor. Always talk with your doctor about diagnosis and treatment information.