Septoplasty

Written by Erica Roth | Published on August 15, 2012
Medically Reviewed by George Krucik, MD

What is Septoplasty?

Septoplasty is a surgical procedure to correct a deviated nasal septum. The septum is a wall composed of bone and cartilage that divides your nose into two separate nostrils.

A deviated septum occurs when the septum is displaced to one side of the nose. Most people with a deviated septum have one nasal passage that is significantly smaller than the other. A deviated septum is the most common septum defect, and surgery is the only way to fix it.

Septoplasty corrects the displacement of the septum, allowing for better airflow through the nose.

Preparing for a Septoplasty

You may be asked to stop taking certain medications a week prior to your surgery, including aspirin, ibuprofen, and blood thinners. This will reduce your risk of excessive bleeding during the operation.

Your doctor might take pictures of your nose before the surgery. A “before and after” comparison can serve as a helpful marker of results.

Most patients have general anesthesia, which means they are asleep during the septoplasty. Do not eat or drink anything after midnight before your surgery. This way, if you become nauseated from the anesthesia, you will not vomit.

Bring a family member or friend to drive you home after your septoplasty. General anesthesia may make you drowsy after the procedure.

Septoplasty Procedure

A septoplasty takes about 60 to 90 minutes to complete.

The surgeon will make an incision on one side of your nose to access the septum. He or she will then lift up the mucus membrane (the protective covering of the septum). Then, the surgeon will shift the deviated septum into the proper position. Obstructions like extra pieces of bone or cartilage will be removed. The final step is the repositioning of the mucus membrane.

You may need stitches to hold the septum and membrane in place. Sometimes, packing the nose with cotton is enough to hold the structures in position.

Potential Risks of a Septoplasty

Patients who have had a septoplasty could experience a recurrence of nasal obstruction and require a second surgery. Other risks are rare, but can include:

  • bleeding
  • scarring
  • perforation of the septum
  • altered shape of the nose
  • discoloration of the nose
  • decreased sense of smell

Excessive bleeding and infection are possible risks of any surgery. Keeping your nose clean and washing your hands frequently can reduce these risks.

Recovery After a Septoplasty

Septoplasty is usually performed as an outpatient procedure; you can go home on the same day, after the effects of the anesthesia have 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.

Limit your physical activity, including vigorous sports, for several weeks after surgery to minimize swelling and promote healing. Your doctor will prescribe pain medication as needed.

Tips for a quicker recovery include:

  • elevating your head at night to keep swelling down
  • trying not to blow your nose
  • wearing shirts that button or zip up the front so that you don’t need to pull clothing over your head

Although wound healing after a septoplasty may be fairly rapid, the overall healing process can be slow. Cartilage and other nasal tissues can take up to a year to settle into their new shape. Your breathing is likely to improve shortly after surgery and will continue to improve as your nose heals.

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