The nasal turbinates are 3 bony projections (conchae) covered with mucosa that arise from the lateral nasal wall. These conchae are named from below upward, the inferior, middle and superior conchae. Occasionally when a fourth one is present it lies above the others and is named the supreme concha. The turbinates play a role in controlling breathed air temperature and humidity. In the presence of an upper respiratory infection or nasal allergy, the turbinates engorge with blood and swell, thus producing nasal congestion and obstruction. They shrink when treated with decongestant nasal sprays such as oxymetazoline (Afrin) or with the intake of oral decongestants such as pseudoephedrine. When they are very large (hypertrophied), they permanently obstruct the nasal airway and may require surgery to reduce their size. This operation is called turbinectomy. Several techniques of turbinectomy have been described: complete, partial, submucous, etc. They all achieve one purpose, to widen the nasal passages by reducing the size of the turbinates.
Turbinate reduction / turbinectomy/ turbinoplasty is a procedure that is frequently performed with septoplasty. It consists of removing a piece of the inferior turbinate to widen the nasal airway. The above diagram depicts one of the several surgical techniques in which a wedge of tissue is removed from the inferior turbinate, then the turbinate is collapsed on itself to increase the nasal air flow.