What is a deviated septum?
The septum is a structure of bone and cartilage that runs down the middle of the nose and separates the nasal cavity into two equal sides. The septum supports the nose and regulates air flow through the nasal cavity. With a deviated septum, the bridge of the nose may appear crooked, indented or slumped to one side of the nasal cavity thereby obstructing one or both nasal airways while making the bridge of the nose look unattractive.
Surprisingly, a deviated septum is a common occurrence, with over three-fourths of the population having some degree of bend in their septum. An injury or accident may cause a deviated septum, or a person can be born with it. Most people are uninhibited by their deviated septum and lead a normal life. However, some people experience side effects that negatively impact their quality of life, including:
- Reduced or blocked airflow in one or both nostrils
- Difficulty breathing through the nose
- Excessive snoring
- Disrupted sleep
- Frequent bleeding or crusting inside the nose
- Facial pain
- Constant nasal pressure or congestion
Septoplasty is a surgical procedure of the nose that corrects and repositions the septum. In most cases, the entire surgery takes place inside the nasal cavity, so there are no external incisions on the nose or face. Septoplasty is a medical procedure, not a cosmetic surgery, and therefore may be covered by your insurance. Correcting and repositioning the septum improves quality of life for patients on a variety of levels, including:
- Improved breathing through the nose
- Decreased snoring
- Uninterrupted sleep Less or no nasal congestion
- Fewer or no nose bleeds
- More attractive bridge
- Less financial worry because the procedure may be covered by insurance
Septoplasty and Rhinoplasty in one Combination Procedure
You and your physician may determine that a combination procedure is the best option to improve the function and appearance of your nose. A septoplasty and rhinoplasty can be performed in one procedure known as septorhinoplasty, to straighten the septum and cosmetically reshape the nose. Performing these procedures together is beneficial to the patient because they only undergo anesthesia once, and the recovery period is reduced to one instead of two separate recoveries. When combined, these procedures can:
- Alleviate nasal obstructions
- Improve breathing Improve nasal symmetry
- Restore facial balance
- Straighten bumps or indentations on the bridge of the nose
- Reshape the nostrils
- Improve the shape and size of the nose
To ensure that you are healthy for septoplasty, your physician will perform a thorough physical evaluation and collect information about your health history. Please inform your doctor of any health concerns, allergies or bleeding issues you may have. A detailed examination of your nose and nasal cavity will be conducted. In addition, your physician will evaluate the medications, vitamins and supplements you are currently taking and may ask you to stop taking some or all of them two weeks prior to surgery. Also avoid taking medications such as aspirin, anti-inflammatories or herbal supplements that can thin the blood and increase bleeding during your procedure. If you are a smoker, we recommend that you quit smoking at least two weeks before surgery.
The Septoplasty Procedure
Septoplasty is performed on an outpatient basis; thus, most of our patients go home the day of their procedure. General anesthesia is frequently used for this surgery, which will put you to sleep for the procedure. Local anesthesia, which only numbs the nose, is also an option. You and your surgeon can determine which sedation is best suited for you to manage your comfort during the procedure.
Once you are comfortable, your surgeon will place a small incision inside your nostril. The mucous membrane that covers the septum is lifted to reveal the bone and cartilage that needs to be repaired. The septum is reshaped and repositioned, leaving some of the bone and cartilage intact to maintain the shape of the nose, and then the mucous membrane is placed over the septum and stitches are used to close the incision. Once the procedure is completed, splints may be placed inside the nostrils to keep the septum straight, with the added benefit of reducing the development of scar tissue. Occasionally, gauze or cotton packing may be placed inside the nostrils to control bleeding. The entire procedure takes approximately 30 to 90 minutes. Our staff will observe you in the recovery room until the anesthesia starts to wear off, and then you are free to have someone drive you home.
Recovery and Downtime
You will be sent home with care instructions. Follow them carefully to ensure that your septum heals properly. For the first day or two following your septoplasty, plan to rest and take it easy. If gauze packing was used, you may remove it after the first day. You can expect swelling and discomfort in and around your nose for approximately three days and minor nasal drainage for five days. Pain medication may be prescribed to manage your pain, and cold compresses can ease swelling and discomfort.
The nasal splints will be removed by your physician one to two weeks after your procedure. If your stitches are not dissolvable sutures, they may also be removed at this appointment. At this point in their recovery, some patients feel well enough to return to work or school. Please keep in mind that the recovery period is different for each patient, with more invasive procedures requiring more time to heal. In general, it is advised that patients take the following precautions for the first two to four weeks following their septoplasty procedure:
- Avoid exercise and strenuous activity
- Do not blow, rub or pick your nose
- Wear clothing that buttons in the front to avoid pulling clothes over your head and across your nose
- Sleep in an elevated position
- Do not participate in sports
- Avoid public places to reduce exposure to germs that could cause infection
- Do not smoke
- Avoid smoky or dusty environments
Although rare, there are potential risks with septoplasty. Patients may experience a change in the shape of the nose, a diminished sense of smell, skin discoloration on the nose, numbness in the nose or teeth, a perforated septum, excessive bleeding or infection. Good hygiene, frequent hand washing, following the after-care instructions and attending all post-op appointments will reduce these risks and promote healing. If you have concerns at any time during your recovery, contact Advanced Aesthetic Plastic Surgery Center and our caring team will assist you. Results That Improve Your Quality of Life You may notice some improvement in your breathing following your septoplasty, but patience is key. As the nose splints are removed and swelling diminishes over the next two weeks, breathing will continue to improve. However, the healing process inside your nose will take time. The tissues and cartilage in your nasal cavity should stabilize within three to six months, at which time the shape of your nose should become more permanent. Healing, as well as changes in the appearance of your nose, can continue for up to one year following your septoplasty. Most patients are pleased with the results of their septoplasty and have a new lease on life due to:
- Improved breathing
- Better sleep
- Reduced snoring
- A more attractive nose
If you struggle to breathe through your nose and wonder if there is a treatment or procedure that can help, contact Advanced Aesthetics Plastic Surgery Center today at 404-865-3949 to schedule a consultation. During the consultation, your physician will listen to your concerns, assess your nose and offer a treatment plan that is tailored to your specific condition and needs. Our physicians have extensive experience in surgical and non-surgical treatments to improve the function and appearance of your nose.