What is a Septoplasty?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 23 February 2020
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Septoplasty is a surgical procedure that helps to realign a crooked septum. The septum, which is the bony portion that separates the two nostrils, may be crooked due to some type of malformation of the cartilage and the bone itself. This condition adversely affects the ability to breathe through the nose. A simple nasal septoplasty can straighten the bone and repair the cartilage, allowing a normal flow of air through the nostrils.

Depending on the severity of the malformation, the angle of the septum may cause breathing through one or both nostrils to be difficult. In most cases, the deviation of the septum will more or less block one nasal cavity while having little to no effect on the function of the other nostril. However, even blockage in one nostril can lead to various types of sinus problems, including the development of sinus headaches. The septoplasty helps to correct this situation and allows the patient to live without the constant discomfort caused by this condition.


A basic septoplasty will involve the administration of local or general anesthesia, in order to prevent the patient from experiencing pain during the surgical procedure. The surgeon will work through the nostrils themselves, usually beginning by making a small incision in the septum that makes it possible to access the cartilage and begin the repairs. Care is taken to incrementally remove excess bone and cartilage, until the septum is determined to be aligned properly. As the last step in the process, the repaired septum is stabilized using tubes and usually a splint of some type. The incision is sutured shut, and the nose is bandaged in light gauze.

The first few days after a septoplasty may be extremely uncomfortable. A great deal of swelling and bruising is very normal. The gauze must be changed frequently, as must any packing that may be present in the nose during the recuperative period. After a couple of days, the swelling begins to subside and the seepage of blood also begins to slow down. By the third or fourth day, it is often possible to remove the gauze and any packing.

At this juncture, a saline solution can be administered, making it possible to determine the rate of success of the septoplasty. Ideally, the patient will now be able to breathe through both nostrils with little to no distress. Within two weeks of the surgery, all swelling and bruising should be gone, the incision completely healed, and the patient should be able to breathe and blow the nose without any problems at all.

While septoplasty recovery can be uncomfortable, patients tend to report that the discomfort for the several days after the surgery is less distressing than the headaches and general sense of stuffiness that is common with septum deviation. As the healing continues, the patient notices an increasing absence of headaches and congestion. The ability to breathe normally and not experience constant sinus problems more than makes up for the pain of the recovery period.


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