Nasal Septum Surgery (Septoplasty)
The septum is the wall of bone and cartilage that divides your nose into two separate nostrils. A deviated septum occurs when your septum is moved to one side of your nose.
Some people are born with a deviated septum, but it can also be caused by an injury to your nose. Most people with a deviated septum have one nasal passage that’s much smaller than the other. This can cause difficulty breathing. Other symptoms of a deviated septum may include frequent nosebleeds and facial pain. Surgery is the only way to fix a deviated septum.
Septoplasty is a surgical procedure to correct a deviated septum. Septoplasty straightens the septum, allowing for better airflow through your nose.
Having some deviation of the septum is common. When a deviated septum is severe, it can block one side of your nose and reduce airflow, causing difficulty breathing through one or both sides of your nose.
The additional exposure of a deviated septum to the drying effect of airflow through the nose may sometimes contribute to crusting or bleeding in certain individuals. Septoplasty straightens the nasal septum by trimming, repositioning and replacing cartilage, bone or both.
If you experience symptoms — such as difficulty breathing through your nose — that significantly affect your quality of life, you may consider surgery to correct a deviated septum.
Risks of Nasal Septum Surgery (Septoplasty)
As with any major surgery, septoplasty carries risks, such as bleeding, infection and an adverse reaction to the anesthetic. Other possible risks specific to septoplasty include:
- Persistence in previous symptoms, such as nasal obstruction, despite surgery
- Excessive bleeding
- A change in the shape of your nose
- An opening in the septum (septal perforation)
- A decrease in the sense of smell
- A collection of blood in the nasal space that would need to be drained (septal hematoma)
- A temporary numb sensation by the upper gum or teeth
Additional surgery may be required to treat some of these complications or if the outcome of the surgery doesn't match your expectations. Talk to your doctor about your specific risks before surgery.
Recovering from a Septoplasty
Septoplasty is usually performed as an outpatient procedure unless major complications arise. This means that you’ll be able to go home on the same day as the procedure, once the anesthesia has worn off. Your nose will be swollen, painful, and packed with cotton to control bleeding. The packing can be removed a day or two after surgery. Your doctor will also prescribe pain medication as needed.
Your doctor will likely ask you to avoid aspirin, ibuprofen, and other drugs that thin the blood. This is done to lower the risk of bleeding problems after the procedure.
You should also limit your physical activity for several weeks after surgery to minimize swelling and promote healing. This includes most forms of intense exercise, such as running, lifting weights, and playing contact sports. These activities can increase your blood pressure and lead to heavy bleeding.
Tips for a quicker recovery include:
- elevating your head at night to keep the swelling down
- not blowing your nose for at least three days after surgery
- wearing shirts that button up in the front so you won’t have to pull clothing over your head