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Deviated Septum Surgery (Septoplasty): What to Expect, Risks, Recovery

Deviated septum surgery is a common procedure for those who have breathing problems due to nasal obstruction, stuffy or runny nose, or suffer from chronic sinus infections.

It is also sometimes performed to correct the structure of a nose that has been previously broken or suffered other trauma.

Here’s what you need to know before undergoing a surgical procedure for deviated septum, including risks and recovery time.

What Is a Deviated Septum?

A deviated septum describes the condition in which the cartilage dividing the nasal passage is not in the right place or is crooked.

There is a very small percentage of people who have a straight nasal septum; most have one that is off-centre.

Trauma often causes nasal septum deviation, although it may also simply be the result of a person’s genetics.

What Is Septoplasty?

Deviated nasal septums are corrected with septoplasty surgery. In this procedure, your septum is straightened and repositioned to the middle of your nose.

It’s a straightforward operation that’ll make breathing, eating, and sleeping easier.

What to Expect Before and During Deviated Septum Surgery?

Just as before any other nose job, your surgeon will meet you for a consultation.

This gives the chance for your doctor to examine your nasal passage, discuss your deviated septum symptoms, and discuss treatment options as well as expected outcomes from the procedure.

Septoplasty is usually performed under general anaesthesia. It also depends on the patient’s health and preferences, as well as the exact condition of their nasal cavity and nasal tissues. 

Approximately 45 to 60 minutes are needed for the operation. There will be no need for you to spend the night in the hospital since this is an outpatient procedure.

During the operation, the surgeon will make an incision inside your nose. As a result, scarring is usually invisible, but sometimes it is necessary to make a small incision between the nostrils.

By trimming, repositioning, and correcting the bone and cartilage of the nose, a septal deviation is straightened ans any nasal obstruction is removed. In certain cases, cartilage grafts can be inserted by the surgeon to correct the deviation. 

Following the correction of the structure, the incision is sutured closed. Most stitches used for these procedures are absorbable and do not require removal.

septorhinoplasty surgery before after

Septoplasty Complications

Septoplasty is a very common and safe procedure but it is a surgery and as such, there are possible risks associated with it.

Here is a list of complications that might arise during or after a septum surgery:

  • Excessive bleeding
  • Infection after the surgery
  • Perforated septum
  • Toxic shock syndrome
  • Bruising and swelling in the nasal area
  • Numbness due to nerve injury

Septoplasty vs Rhinoplasty

Both septoplasty and rhinoplasty are nose surgeries but there are clear differences between the two.

The primary reason for a septoplasty is to correct the medical issues associated with a deviated septum.

Rhinoplasty, on the other hand, is mainly done for cosmetic reasons.

You can read more about the differences between rhinoplasty and septoplasty here.

It is also possible to perform both surgeries at the same time, this procedure is called septorhinoplasty.


How bad does a deviated septum have to be for surgery?

It may be a good idea to discuss alternatives to surgery with your ear nose and throat specialist.

You may wish to consider surgery if your deviated septum completely blocks one or both nostrils so that breathing through your nose is difficult or impossible. 

A chronically infected nose can create an ideal environment for bacteria to flourish. You can expect fewer sinus infections after a successful procedure.

How long does it take to recover from a deviated septum surgery?

In the hours following surgery, most people will feel drowsy. Anesthesia may cause nausea in some people. They may also experience pain as a result of the procedure. Your doctor will supply medications you might need during this period.

It is likely that both nostrils will receive packing to help control the bleeding. As a consequence, you will need to breathe through your mouth for a while following the procedure. 

The packing will be removed before you are sent home from the hospital.

In rare cases, your doctor will use a splint on your nose. In that case, they usually schedule another appointment for the splints to be removed in 7 days.

Full recovery usually takes 4-6 weeks after the septoplasty procedure but can take up to three months.

How painful is a deviated septum surgery?

Septoplasty is performed under local anaesthesia, therefore, you should not feel any pain during the procedure.

During the healing process, as the pain medication wears off, you can expect low to moderate pain. This can be treated with over-the-counter pain killers.

Do they break your nose for septoplasty?

Septoplasty is done in a closed procedure through the nostrils.

It usually does not involve breaking your nose but in some rare cases, your surgeon might need to break a significantly deviated septum before it can be fixed.

Does septoplasty change your face?

Most of the time, the procedure is done in order to benefit your quality of life by fixing a medical condition. 

Is a septoplasty going to change the shape of your nose? In cases where your external nose is extremely crooked, straightening your septum will make your nose more straight. 

If a deviation is primarily on the inside of your nose, the appearance of your face will not usually change significantly.

Is deviated septum surgery worth it?

Treatment is usually not necessary for minor symptoms caused by a deviated septum. If you have mild nasal blockage, stuffy nose or noisy breathing, a throat specialist can often prescribe medications such as nasal steroid sprays that can help provide better airflow.

If you have difficulty breathing along with high blood pressure, bleeding problems, or facial pain on one or both sides, surgery might be a viable option.

You should discuss your symptoms with a doctor but the decision to have it fixed is ultimately yours. 

The risk of treatment may be greater than the benefit if your symptoms aren’t severe and don’t interfere with the quality of your life.

What can you not do after septoplasty?

Generally, it is recommended that you follow the aftercare recommendations while recovering from any nose surgery.

Here are some pointers from that list:

Following surgery, refrain from blowing your nose for a week. Keep your nose free from anything that may be irritating.

When you sneeze, open your mouth and sneeze normally.

After the packing is removed, wash your nasal passages with saline (saltwater) to keep mucus and bacteria from building up.

Avoid strenuous exercise during the first 2 weeks.

Is septoplasty a major surgery?

Although septoplasty is a very common procedure, it is a major surgery and should be treated as such.

It is important that you follow the instructions of your surgeon when you are preparing for septoplasty.

References and Further Reading

  • Mayo Clinic on Deviated Septum Treatment: Discusses initial symptom management through medication and details surgical options such as septoplasty and rhinoplasty for correcting a deviated septum​​. (Mayo Clinic)
  • Cleveland Clinic on Septoplasty: Explains septoplasty as a surgery for correcting a deviated septum, detailing its procedure, recovery process, risks, and benefits, emphasizing its role in improving nasal airflow and breathing​​. (Cleveland Clinic)
  • Healthdirect on Septoplasty: Offers a comprehensive overview of septoplasty, including benefits like improved nasal airflow, the surgical process, preparation tips, potential complications, and recovery expectations, emphasizing the importance of a straight septum for relieving blocked nose symptoms​​. (HealthDirect)
Sanjay Rai
Sanjay Rai

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