Cautery (burning) of enlarged turbinates can be done with an electrosurgical probe or a laser and is usually performed as an office procedure. Both electrocautery and laser surgery are performed on either the surface of the turbinate tissue or sub-mucosally. Surface cautery results in edema and crusting in the nose which can last three weeks or longer, while sub-mucosal cautery can cause swelling for up to 10 days.
Another method for improving nasal obstruction is outward fracture of the turbinate bone(s), which moves the turbinate away from its obstructive position in the airway. This approach, however, does not address the usual source of obstruction—enlarged sub-mucosal tissue, and the fractured turbinate often returns to its previous position. Turbinate resection (removal of the bone and/or soft tissue) and excision (removal of the soft tissue only) can be performed with surgical scissors or a laser. Physicians can reduce nasal obstruction by cutting away excess tissue from the surface of the turbinate with angled scissors. Following treatment, the nose must be packed for several days with gauze containing anantibiotic ointment.
Bleeding, which can usually be managed by packing the nose, is the greatest risk for patients undergoing standard turbinate resection. Over-resection of the turbinates has been reported as the cause of excessive, irreversible drying of the turbinates. Resection, excision and surface cautery can all be associated with prolonged crusting and healing, which occurs over a four- to six-week period.
Laser resection of the turbinates uses light energy that reaches temperatures of 750°C to 900°C (1,400°F to 1,700°F) to vaporize the turbinate mucosa. Safety issues related to the use of the laser require specialized training and experience in laser procedures. The crusting and bleeding rates with laser surgery are similar to cautery procedures.