Effect of submucosal diathermy in chronic nasal obstruction due to turbinate enlargement

Am J Otolaryngol. 2002 Nov-Dec;23(6):332-6. doi: 10.1053/ajot.2002.126857.


Nasal obstruction is one of the most common chronic presenting symptoms encountered by otolaryngologists. In most patients, the cause of nasal obstruction is either nasal septal deviation or turbinate hypertrophy owing to vasomotor or perennial allergic rhinitis. Most cases of hypertrophic turbinate are usually mild and respond to antihistamine therapy, local decongestions, or allergy desensitization; however, surgery is required in some cases. Surgical treatment is controversial, and many surgical methods of treatment have been proposed. We have recently evaluated the results of our experience with submucosal diathermy (SMD) on 51 patients suffering from chronic nasal obstruction. We have found that diathermy demonstrated good results in 78% of the cases at 2 weeks postoperatively and in 76% of the cases 2 months following the procedure. Patients who had no complaints and had good nasal airflow were not followed-up after 2 months. In the present study, we have carried out a long-term follow-up of another group of patients who had undergone SMD diathermy because of hypertrophy of the inferior turbinates. Patients were examined at 2 months postoperatively and after 1 year, with both subjective and objective assessments of nasal breathing. Two months postoperatively 64 of 91 patients (70.3%) experienced subjective improvement in nasal breathing, where as 73 patients (80.2%) had good nasal breathing as indicated with the Gertner-Podoshin plate. During the follow-up year, secondary operations were deemed necessary for 16 patients because of unsatisfactory results of the original procedure. Of these secondary procedures 4 were revision SMD, 9 patients underwent a septoplasty, in 2 patients functional endoscopic sinus surgery was conducted, and 1 patient had a submucosal turbinectomy. This group of patients was excluded from the 1 year follow-up evaluation. At the 1-year follow-up visit, 65 patients (of the 75) were symptom-free with respect to nasal breathing (86.7%), and 67 patients (89.3%) had good nasal breathing as examined with the Gertner-Podoshin plate. No means were apparent for predicting preoperatively which patients would benefit most from submucosal diathermy. Submucosal diathermy is carried out under local anesthesia and can be implemented as an office procedure. It does not require expensive instrumentation and is a safe, effective procedure for improving nasal breathing in patients with chronic obstructive inferior turbinates, both on a short-term and long-term basis.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Electrocoagulation / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypertrophy / surgery
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nasal Obstruction / surgery*
  • Nasal Septum / surgery
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Turbinates / pathology*
  • Turbinates / surgery*