(Radiofrequency Ablation of Turbinates; RFA of Turbinates)
by Michael Jubinville, MPH
Turbinate cautery is decreases the size of the blood vessels and tissues in the turbinates.
The turbinates are 3 paired sets of structures that line the inside wall of the nose. They filter, moisten, and heat air as it enters the nose. They are made of small bones surrounded by soft tissue.
Reasons for Procedure
Enlarged turbinates make it hard for air to pass through the nose. There are many causes such as allergies or a deviated septum. Turbinate cautery shrinks the size of the turbinates to help open the airway. It also:
Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review possible problems such as:
What to Expect
Prior to Procedure
You may have:
Before your procedure:
In most cases, turbinate cautery is done with local anesthesia. Your nose and the area around it will be numb.
Description of the Procedure
A heated probe is place in the nose. The heat clots and closes off certain turbinate blood vessels. The changes in blood flow will help shrink the tissue.
The probe is removed when the procedure is done.
How Long Will It Take?
Less than 30 minutes.
Will It Hurt?
Anesthesia will prevent pain during surgery. You may be advised to take mild pain relievers after.
At the Care Center
The healthcare staff will watch for any problems such as bleeding. You can leave as soon as you feel ready.
If more extensive work was done, you may need to stay longer.
Swelling is normal. It should last a few days. Breathing should be easier after a few weeks as the tissue heals.
You will need to avoid certain activities for a short time. Trapped blood and mucus are removed at follow up appointments.
Call Your Doctor
Call your doctor if any of these occur:
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.
Radiofrequency tissue reduction for turbinate hypertrophy. NICE interventional procedure guidance 495. Available at: https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/ipg495. Published June 2014.
Septoplasty & turbinate surgery. American Rhinologic Society website. Available at:
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Updated February 17, 2015. Accessed July 2, 2018.
Septoplasty and turbinate surgery. VCU Health Services website. Available at: https://ent.vcu.edu/docs/septoplasty_1.pdf. Accessed July 2, 2018.
Last reviewed May 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Donald W. Buck II, MD
Last Updated: 7/2/2018
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