Septoplasty (SEP-toe-plas-tee) is a surgical procedure to straighten the bone and cartilage dividing the space between your two nostrils (septum). When the septum is crooked, it's known as a deviated septum. A deviated septum can make it harder to breathe through your nose and can increase the risk of sinus infections due to poor drainage.
During septoplasty, your nasal septum is repositioned to the middle of your nose. This may require your surgeon to cut and remove parts of your nasal septum before reinserting them in the proper position.
Once a septoplasty is healed, you'll likely find it's easier to breathe. Your surgeon can discuss what septoplasty can achieve for you.
A crooked septum is common. But when it's severe, a deviated septum can block one side of your nose and reduce airflow, causing difficulty breathing through one or both sides of your nose.
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 affect your quality of life, you may consider surgery to fix a deviated septum.
A deviated septum occurs when your nasal septum is significantly displaced to one side, making one nasal air passage smaller than the other.
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:
You may need additional surgery to treat some of these complications. You may also need additional surgery if the outcome of septoplasty doesn't match your expectations. Talk to your doctor about your specific risks before surgery.
Before scheduling septoplasty, you'll meet with your surgeon to discuss benefits and risks of the surgery. This meeting generally includes:
Avoid medications containing aspirin or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) before and after surgery. These medications may increase bleeding. Take only those medications approved or prescribed by your surgeon.
If you smoke, stop smoking. Smoking increases your risk of having problems during and after surgery. Smoking can slow the healing process.
Septoplasty straightens the nasal septum by trimming, repositioning and replacing cartilage or bone. The surgeon works through incisions inside the nose. Occasionally it is necessary to make a small incision between the nostrils.
If the nasal bones are crooked and pushing the septum off to one side, it may be necessary to make cuts in the bones of the nose to reposition them. Spreader grafts are small, reinforcing strips of cartilage that can be used to help correct a deviated septum when the problem is along the bridge of the nose. Sometimes these are necessary to effectively straighten the septum.
The procedure may be done with either local or general anesthesia. Which type of anesthesia is used depends on how complex your surgery is, and what you and your surgeon prefer.
Talk with your doctor beforehand about which kind of anesthesia is best for you.
During surgery, the incision is closed with absorbable suture. Soft silicone splints may be inserted inside each nostril to support the septum. To prevent postoperative bleeding, your doctor may place bandage-like material in your nose (packing).
After surgery, you're moved to a recovery room, where the staff monitors you and watches for any complications. This procedure is typically performed on an outpatient basis, so you'll likely be able to go home the same day. You will need someone to drive you home, however.
To further decrease the chances of bleeding and swelling, your doctor may ask that you follow these precautions for several weeks after surgery. Depending on the extent of your surgery, you may not need to do all of these:
By three to six months after surgery, your nasal tissues will be relatively stable. It's still possible that cartilage and tissue may gradually move or reshape over time. Some changes can still occur for up to a year or more after surgery.
Most people find that septoplasty improves their symptoms, such as difficulty breathing, that were caused by a deviated septum. The level of improvement you can expect with septoplasty varies by person.
Some people find that their symptoms continue even after surgery and opt to undergo a second septoplasty to further refine the nose and septum.