Septoplasty is a surgical procedure to correct defects or deformities of the septum, the partition between the two nostrils. Commonly, the procedure is performed to correct a deviated septum. While a small deviation of the septum is commonplace, if the condition is severe, it may impede airflow through the nostrils. This may cause difficulty breathing and poor nasal drainage from the sinuses, both of which are problematic.
In adults, the nasal septum is composed of both cartilage and bone. The function of the nasal septum is to support the mucous membranes of the nose and to regulate air flow. Septoplasty is commonly performed to help relieve nasal obstruction and in some cases it may be a part of other surgical procedures including sinus surgery or nasal tumor or polyp removal. Septoplasty straightens the nasal septum by trimming, repositioning and replacing cartilage or bone within the nose.
The Septoplasty Procedure
The septoplasty is performed as an outpatient procedure and either a general or local anesthetic may be used. During a septoplasty, the surgeon straightens the septum and repositions it to the center of the nose. The procedure may involve removing a small part of the septum itself. A septoplasty may also be performed in conjunction with a rhinoplasty in order to ensure that the reshaping of the nose does not result in a reduction of the amount of breathing space or in conjunction with sinus surgery to assist in post-surgical drainage. Any incisions are stitched closed with dissolvable stitches. After the procedure, there may be splints or packing (of cotton) placed inside the nose to prevent bleeding during the healing process.
Recovery from Septoplasty
Most patients return home the same day of the procedure. Packing is usually removed from the nose about 24 hours after the procedure, which helps make patients more comfortable. Patients may experience some swelling and nasal drainage. Most patients are advised to refrain from any strenuous or physical activity for one to two weeks after the procedure. Patients are also advised to elevate their heads while sleeping for at least two weeks and nose blowing should also be avoided for two weeks after septoplasty.
Risks of Septoplasty
As with any surgery, there are risks associated with septoplasty which include bleeding, infection and an adverse reaction to the anesthesia. Risks specific to septoplasty may include:
- Excessive bleeding
- Change in the shape of the nose
- Septal perforation
- Decreased sense of smell
- Fluid build-up within the nose
Most patients experience restored breathing after the septoplasty procedure. However, full relief may take up to a year, because the cartilage and bones of the septum tend to heal slowly.