Health Library

Septoplasty

Definition

Septoplasty is a surgery to straighten a deviated septum. The septum is the wall dividing the left and right nasal cavities. It is made of cartilage and bone and is lined with a thin mucus membrane.

A normal septum is straight and in the center of the nose. A deviated septum is bent or off-center. Septal deviation may occur during development in the womb, during birth, as your nose grows, or after a traumatic injury. Septoplasty may be done at the same time as other nasal surgery, like rhinoplasty.

Reasons for Procedure

Septoplasty is considered if a deviated septum obstructs your nasal passages. The obstruction can cause impaired nasal breathing, sinus infections , obstructive sleep apnea , recurrent nose bleeds , or a runny nose. A deviated septum may also need to be corrected with septoplasty if it causes chronic headaches.

Deviated Nasal Septum
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Possible Complications

Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like:

  • Numbness in the tip of the nose or upper front teeth
  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Septal perforation—a hole in the septum
  • No improvement in symptoms
  • Poor cosmetic outcome

Before your procedure, talk to your doctor about ways to manage factors that may increase your risk of complications such as:

What to Expect

Prior to Procedure

To prepare for surgery, follow any instructions provided by your doctor.

  • Talk to your doctor about your medications, including vitamins, herbs, or dietary supplements. You may be asked to stop taking some medications up to one week before the procedure, like:
    • Anti-inflammatory drugs
    • Blood thinners
    • Antiplatelets
  • If you are having local anesthesia for the procedure, it is likely that no other special preparation is needed. If you will be having general anesthesia, your doctor will give you additional instructions.

Anesthesia

Septoplasty can be done using local or general anesthesia. Local anesthesia will numb the area. General anesthesia will put you to sleep.

Description of the Procedure

An incision will be made inside the nose. The lining of the septum will be lifted up and out of the way. The bent bone or cartilage will be straightened by moving it or cutting off the bent piece. After the repair is done, the lining will be replaced over the top of the septum. Gauze may be placed in the nose to soak up any blood. A plastic splint may also be inserted to keep the septum in place while it heals.

How Long Will It Take?

About 1 to 1-½ hours

How Much Will It Hurt?

Anesthesia will prevent pain during surgery. Pain and discomfort after the procedure can be managed with medications.

Average Hospital Stay

Most people leave the care center after 3-4 hours.

Postoperative Care

At the Care Center

During your stay, the care center staff will take steps to reduce your chance of infection, such as:

  • Washing their hands
  • Wearing gloves or masks
  • Keeping your incisions covered

There are also steps you can take to reduce your chance of infection, such as:

  • Washing your hands often and reminding your healthcare providers to do the same
  • Reminding your healthcare providers to wear gloves or masks
  • Not allowing others to touch your incision
At Home

If nasal packing is used, it is removed 1-2 days after the surgery. The splint remains in the nose for up to a week. After the surgery, do the following to ensure a smooth recovery:

  • Try to breathe through your mouth for the first few days.
  • Do not blow your nose.
  • Keep your head elevated when lying down for the first 1-2 days.
  • Apply ice packs to your nose to reduce pain and swelling.
  • Do not take aspirin products for pain.
  • Your doctor may want to see you for a follow-up visit to monitor healing or to remove the gauze packing or splint.

Call Your Doctor

Call your doctor if any of the these occur:

  • Signs of infection, including fever and chills
  • Redness, swelling, increasing pain, excessive bleeding, or discharge from the incision site
  • Heavy bleeding
  • Packing from your nose falls into the back of your throat, causing discomfort
  • Persistent nausea and/or vomiting
  • Vomit that is bloody or the color of coffee grounds
  • Pain that you cannot control with the medications you have been given
  • Cough, shortness of breath, or chest pain

If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.

Resources

American Academy of Otolaryngology
http://www.entnet.org
The American Rhinologic Society
http://www.american-rhinologic.org

Canadian Resources

Canadian Society of Otolaryngology
http://www.entcanada.org

References

Deviated septum. Cedars-Sinai website. Available at: http://www.cedars-sinai.edu/Patients/Health-Conditions/Deviated-Septum.aspx. Accessed July 23, 2013.
Deviated septum. Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh website. Available at: http://www.chp.edu/CHP/P02062. Accessed July 23, 2013.
Fact sheet: deviated septum. American Academy of Otolaryngology website. Available at http://www.entnet.org/HealthInformation/deviatedSeptum.cfm. Accessed July 23, 2013.
6/3/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Mills E, Eyawo O, Lockhart I, Kelly S, Wu P, Ebbert JO. Smoking cessation reduces postoperative complications: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Med. 2011;124(2):144-154.e8.