Saturday, June 5, 2010

ENT Adventures - Turbinate Reduction

The time had arrived for me to get my first real medical procedure of my adult life other than a dental filling: it was time for my turbinate reduction.

A few people have asked me what the heck this is. From what I can gather (and I am NOT an ENT doctor, so this is about as basic as a basic explanation can get), inside your nose on the walls of your nasal passage are these turbinates. They interact with your body to make sure you... something... and secrete mucus whenever you cry, have an allergic reaction, get a cold, etc. When these things happen, they can also become enlarged and end up as assisting in getting sinus infections or continual discomfort because of these other things going on. Well, because I have so many allergies - my turbinates were working in overtime and were basically permanently enlarged. This procedure's purpose is to relatively permanently reduce or shrink my turbinates.

I got to the doctor's office and (thankfully) had Steve in tow. I hopped up in the chair and waited for Dr. Postal to come in, chatting with Steve while I waited. I noticed that the machine in the room looked like something out of one of those old-school sci-fi films you see featured on MST3K, and made a joke to Steve about them implanting a microchip instead of doing the procedure.It was right around this time that the doctor came in. He explained the procedure, strapped an RF grounding pad to my arm, and got to work.

***WARNING: The next few paragraphs might be a bit graphic - if you aren't big on medical procedures or procedures involving Novocaine: DO NOT CONTINUE READING! Go to the part where it says I indicate I'm done and read from there.***

This is basically what I had done. I'm 4 days into a 1-3 week healing process as of today. (Image found on

The doctor prepped some cotton on his little table (think similar to what they do to numb you up before the shot at the dentist), turned around, and shoved it up my nose. After 5 minutes or so, he said "Your front teeth should start feeling funny right about now." I hadn't noticed so I pressed my tongue against my 2 front teeth and yes indeed, they did feel a bit funny. After a bit longer (maybe another 5 minutes), he returned and advised that he was now going to remove said cotton and administer the Novocaine. He handed me a stack of tissues and said "This is incase you end up coughing. Because it's a needle there's probably going to be a little blood, so if you cough then catch it in the tissues so you don't ruin your shirt. Besides, it never looks good to the other patients if you come out of here with blood on your shirt."

My doctor thinks he's hilarious. So did Steve, incidentally, who chuckled at his joke. I, however, was nervous with a giant wad of tissues in my hand waiting for the Novocaine shot.

He needed to do two shots of Novocaine - one on each side - and started first on my left side. At first I felt a pinch, then a sharp pinch, then I felt liquid running down my throat. The liquid started to feel numb, and I went into an involuntary cough. Good thing I remembered the tissues, which I promptly lifted to my mouth. However, the doctor couldn't really rip the needle out of my nose; he expertly stayed with me - not once slipping on the needle - and continued to administer the remainder of the shot. All this time I'm coughing, I started crying (it freaking HURT before the numb!), and my legs were convulsing because of the pain/numb/coughing discomfort.

Also I was freaking out. Why was I freaking out? Because if all of that wasn't enough - I heard and felt a buzzing in my ears. This was possibly the most unsettling thing I had ever experienced. In fact, as the buzzing got worse and I felt a couple more tears flowing and another cough coming on, the doctor mentioned: "Oh, and sometimes patients have experienced a buzzing in their ears. This is normal and will pass in a few minutes."

Thanks, Doc. Now you tell me. I rolled my eyes and looked at Steve. I felt so bad for him but was so glad he was in there. He said: "Buzzing?" I nodded.

After a minute of letting the left side settle down, he proceeded to do the right side. This side went much smoother than the first, which of course my observant husband noticed. Never one to allow curiosity to escape him, he asked the doctor about it. "It seemed like that side went a lot easier than the first side. Is that normal?"

The doctor replied, "Yeah... she has a deviated septum on that other side. That always makes things a little more challenging."

Again - Thanks, Doc. Now you tell me.

***OK. The worst is over now. The rest is pretty tame and not so graphic.***

After that was all done, he got to work on the actual procedure. I'm not even joking when I say I did not feel a thing. I heard a "bzz-bzz-bzzzzz" come from the machine... and that was it. He spent about 2 minutes on each side with the radio frequency wand doing his thing, gave me some instructions for care over the next 8 weeks, set up a follow up appointment, and sent me on my way.

The day of the procedure (Wednesday) was awful. I couldn't blow my nose so instead went through a box and a half of tissues keeping up with a nose that had been poked at. Thursday wasn't as bad, though I still couldn't exercise at all really and was still coughing a good amount. Yesterday (Friday) was even better in terms of nose blowing, and today has been the best day so far. I've blown my nose a lot less and was even able to go for a walk this morning (even though I didn't feel 100% while I was out there). I expect each day to get a little bit better, and am just making sure that I stay on top of the regimen that he prescribed to me. I expect that next week I'll be able to go to the gym again, and by the end of next week can do weights again (no heavy lifting for me for a few days). 

Steve and I expect that between this procedure and the changes that the move to the new house will bring, by the time my 8-week follow-up appointments for the allergist & the ENT hit, I will know if I'm able to breathe any easier. The big hope at this point is that I won't have to go through the procedure again. We'll find out at the beginning of August!

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