By Jeffrey E. Baylor, M.D., F.A.C.S.
For those who have nasal congestion, breathing through the nose can be a chore. Nasal sprays and decongestants aren’t always successful at eliminating the problem. It can be most bothersome at night when a blocked nasal airway can lead to a poor night’s sleep. Thankfully though, there are many options for treatment of the disorder, and one of the most effective is a surgical procedure known as somnoplasty.
Nasal congestion is a blockage of the air passageways in the nose, making breathing difficult. It is usually brought on by enlarged turbinates and/or a deviated septum. The nasal septum is the dividing wall between the left and right nostril. If it is crooked, it may require surgical repair to help you breath better. Your ENT physician can examine your nose to see if you have a significant deviation and whether you might benefit from a septoplasty.
Turbinates are structures in the nasal passage that filter, humidify, and warm the air before it reaches your lungs. But in the case of enlarged turbinates, often caused by allergies, they can block the air making breathing more difficult. In order to correct this enlargement and the disruption it causes, surgical intervention like somnoplasty may be beneficial to reduce the size of the turbinates and effectively open the airways.
What is Somnoplasty?
Somnoplasty is a minimally invasive procedure that can be performed as an in-office surgery that is covered by most insurance plans. The surgery is done under local anesthesia and is a fairly quick process, with typical surgery time lasting in the range of 15-20 minutes.
The procedure involves using radio frequency heat to shrink the turbinates thereby enlarging the nasal passages. The nose is anesthetized and then the turbinate is pierced with a specialized electrode needle that is connected to a radio frequency generator. The relevant tissues are briefly heated, leading to the shrinkage of inner tissues. What makes the process so precise is that the electrode needle closely monitors heat and is able to limit the heat energy only to the desired area.
Though it may sound disconcerting, the process is usually quite painless, and the needle placement needed for both nostrils can take as little as a few minutes, with the remaining time spent monitoring for any postoperative issues.
Some congestion after the surgery is normal for the first 1-2 weeks, but improved breathing function is usually reported only a few weeks following the procedure. While often a permanent solution to nasal congestion, the benefits of somnoplasty can sometimes abate. Fortunately the procedure can be repeated if necessary to correct any regression.
If you continually suffer from nasal congestion, ask your ENT provider whether you may be a candidate for this procedure.
For more information on the benefits of somnoplasty and other treatment options for nasal congestion, please request an appointment today.
Meet the Doctor
Dr. Jeffrey E. Baylor joined The Ear, Nose, Throat and Plastic Surgery Associates in 1999 and focuses his practice on adult and pediatric otolaryngology and voice disorders as well as head and neck, sleep apnea, thyroid and endoscopic sinus surgeries.