Written by Shawn Candela for Avima.com

Surgery to help with a deviated septum can take two forms. The most common method of repairing a deviated septum is through septoplasty, which involves the realignment of the nasal septum. The other possibility is a combination of septoplasty and rhinoplasty (commonly referred to as a “nose job”), which entails the reshaping the bone and cartilage of the nose.

Septoplasty

The goal of a septoplasty procedure is to relieve the nasal obstruction caused when the nasal septum becomes misaligned or malformed, blocking the clear passage of air through one or both nostrils. The operation involves the removal of the mucosa, or lining, of the cartilage and bone in the nose. The surgeon is then able to realign, reshape and even trim the cartilage and bone if necessary to restore the normal flow of air through the nostrils. The surgeon then replaces the mucosa, and the operation is complete.

In the majority of cases, a septoplasty operation successfully relieves the nasal congestion and other issues caused by a deviated septum by restoring the nasal septum to its normal position or shape. However, a second procedure is not uncommon because of the tendency of the nasal cartilage to try to return to its former position.

It is also important to note that while septoplasty can fix a deviated septum, it will take anywhere from a few weeks to a year to fully recover from the surgery. Patients will go home with either splints or cotton in their nose to help keep the changes in place and prevent bleeding, and they can expect to be on pain medication for the first few weeks as the site heals. Normal breathing often returns quite quickly, but it is not unusual for the cartilage to require up to a year to completely repair itself.

Septoplasty and Rhinoplasty

Although septoplasty is the normal medical procedure undertaken to correct a deviated septum, it is sometimes combined with the cosmetic reshaping and/or resizing of the bones and cartilage of the nose known as rhinoplasty. This combined procedure is commonly referred to as septorhinoplasty and can be beneficial to patients by addressing both the breathing problems and the aesthetic issues involved with a deviated septum.

In rhinoplasty, a cosmetic surgeon strives to achieve symmetry of a patient’s face by altering either the shape or size of his nose, or both. The surgeon does this by making incisions inside the nostrils to allow for the separation of the soft tissues of the nose from the bone and cartilage. He then adjusts the bone and cartilage as needed to create a more symmetrical look to the patient’s face.

Rhinoplasty is not a necessary part of repairing a deviated septum, but it can enhance a patient’s appearance without adding any additional recovery time to the septoplasty operation.

Conclusion

Septoplasty is one of the most common head and neck procedures undertaken in the United States, and it has a very high success rate. It is also typically done on an outpatient basis under general anesthesia, with a completion time of less than two hours.

In a majority of cases, septoplasty surgery will eliminate many common symptoms of a deviated septum. It will restore the free flow of air through both nostrils; eliminate frequent nosebleeds, sinus infections, facial pain, postnasal drip, and headaches; and allow the patient to regain a full night’s sleep without frequently waking up because of breathing issues.

For some people with a deviated septum, an additional rhinoplasty procedure is beneficial for aesthetic reasons, sometimes by restoring original symmetry to one’s face and sometimes by achieving it for the first time through structural changes to the bones and cartilage of the nose.