Every year, 50 Million Americans suffer from seasonal nasal allergies that cause congestion and post-nasal drip. For most of those people, nearly 40 million, those allergy symptoms can lead to other problems, such as recurring sinus infections. Laser Allergy Surgery (also known as Laser Sub-Mucosal Resection (SMR), Turbinectomy, Nasal Turbinate Surgery or Turbinate Reduction) can be a viable alternative for some of those people with more severe symptoms.
So what is Laser Allergy Surgery? First, you need to know a little more about the inside of your nose. Turbinates (or nasal concha) are bone shelves in the nose. These are responsible for the heating, filtering, and humidifying the air you breathe into your nostrils. Allergies and other irritants can cause these shelves to swell, inhibiting breathing. During Laser Allergy Surgery,fiber optic-enhanced lasers shrink blood vessels in the turbinates and remove a small amount of the turbinate tissue. This makes them less likely to swell and block the nasal passages.
The outpatient procedure takes about 15 minutes, not including prep time. Afterward, a patient stays in recovery for one hour before being discharged home. Post-operatively, you can expect some temporary congestion. Nosebleeds are also not uncommon after this surgery, but should be temporary.
What Laser Allergy Surgery is not is a cure for your allergies. It is also not for people with mild to moderate symptoms. It is also not for everyone. The surgery is effective for 70% of patients. It is an option for people with mainly nasal symptoms who haven’t responded to prescription medications or shots. Based on attempts to get cost information from doctors*, it is also not cheap, though it may be covered under your insurance. Laser Allergy Surgery is not to be confused with Laser Allergy Treatment, which is a controversial procedure, performed in some chiropractic offices. Laser Allergy Treatment involves being “scanned” for specific allergies with an electrode device attached to your finger and then having a laser pointed directed at certain areas of the body to “cure” the allergies.
*They refused even to give me an estimate, telling me I needed to call (and pay?) for a consultation. At a prominent Dallas ENT they said weren’t comfortable quoting an estimate unless I told them more about the publication for which I was writing. Would they quote a different price depending on what publication I was writing for? I can certainly think of no other reason why my publication would affect their ability to tell me the price.