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Radiofrequency treatment of Blocked Nose and Snoring

(Sutter Medizintechnik GmbH)
Curis radiofrequency generator

Blocked nose and snoring are both symptoms of narrowing of the upper airway. These conditions can be treated with radiofrequency technology which is a relatively new method of precise tissue removal carried out at much lower temperatures than usual electro-diathermy or laser.

The commonest cause of a blocked nose is enlargement or swelling of the inferior turbinates of the nose. Inferior turbinates are the inferior-most bony projection in the nasal cavity.  Turbinates have a lining made up of tissues that can expand and contract. The inferior turbinates swell up due to allergic rhinitis or vasomotor rhinitis. Long term medications can shrink the inferior turbinates but some patients do not respond to medication and require turbinate reduction procedures.

Hypertrophic inferior turbinate

Turbinate reduction surgery can be either volumetric reduction of the turbinate soft tissue or surgical removal of the turbinate. Surgical removal of the inferior turbinate, called a turbinectomy,  means that we literally cut off the turbinate bone. It has to be done under general anaesthetic, involves placing a pack in the nose to stop the bleeding after surgery and usually requires hospitalization. It is traumatic and carries the risk troublesome bleeding after the operation.

Radiofrequency volumetric reduction of the inferior turbinates (RaVoR™) is an excellent alternative because it can be done under local anesthetic, does not require hospital admission and has a short downtime. The risk of bleeding is also much lower.

(Sutter Medizintechnik GmbH)
Radiofrequency volumetric reduction of the inferior turbinate procedure. (RaVoR™)

A two pronged wand is used to apply radiofrequency energy into the turbinate to remove the swollen turbinate tissue and cause eventual scarring and shrinkage of the turbinate. The success rate is high. In some patients, the turbinate tissue swells up again after a period of time necessitating a second RF procedure.  However, most patients do not mind having the procedure repeated because it is convenient and has a low complication rate.

Long and floppy soft palate

The commonest cause of snoring is excessive vibration of a floppy soft palate. The different procedures available for tightening of the soft palate are radiofrequency volumetric reduction (RaVoR™), palatal implants and coblation/laser uvulopalatoplasty. In radiofrequency volumetric reduction the radiofrequency energy is applied with a wand to the centre of the soft palate muscle causes a small area of scar tissue which subsequently shrinks and stiffens.

(Sutter Medizintechnik GmbH)
Radiofrequency volumetric reduction of the soft palate procedure. (RaVoR™)

Radio frequency treatment of the soft palate has the advantage of being is less traumatic than the other surgical snoring treatments because it does not involve cutting of palate tissue or removing the uvula.  It is a short procedure done under a local anesthetic, does not require hospitalization and is a safe and minimally invasive procedure. The success rate after a single application is high. However some patients require more than one application over a period of several months to get maximum benefit.