Septoplasty is a surgical procedure that involves changing the position of the septum inside the nose.  Although it is not the same as rhinoplasty, which is a cosmetic procedure used to change the size and/or shape of the nose, septoplasty may be performed along with rhinoplasty.  Unlike rhinoplasty, which is usually done purely for cosmetic purposes, septoplasty may be performed in order to improve the efficiency of the nose by making it easier to breathe.

A septoplasty procedure involves making changes to the septum, which is the firm yet flexible wall that is located in the center of the nose.  For those requiring a septoplasty, however, the septum may be located to the left of the right side of the nose rather than in the middle.  Therefore, the job of the surgeon is to re-center the septum so the nose can more efficiently inhale and exhale air.  Although it is normal to have a slightly deviated septum - in fact, approximately 80% of people have a septum that is not right in the middle of the noise - having one that is drastically deviated can make proper breathing difficult.

Understanding Septoplasty

When performing a septoplasty, the goal is to straighten out the septum so all obstructions in the nasal passageway are removed.  In many cases, rhinoplasty must also be performed during a septoplasty in order to straighten the septum while also improving the overall appearance of the nose.  The exact procedure used will vary from one patient to the next, as it will depend upon the shape of the patient's nose as well as the degree of septum deviance.  In most cases, the surgeon will need to make a small cut inside one of the nasal walls in order to lift the nasal mucosa as well as anything else that may be obstructing the airway.  These obstructions, which may include bony spurs, are removed before the nasal mucosa is repositioned.

In addition to lifting and repositioning the nasal mucosa, the surgeon may also need to straighten the bone and cartilage inside the nose in order to place it in a more centralized position.  Splints will also need to be placed inside the nose in order to keep the septum in its new location, though the splints can be removed just a couple days following the surgery.

Generally, a septoplasty takes anywhere from 30 minutes to two and a half hours to complete.  Following a septoplasty, most patients continue to experience problems with breathing through their noses.  This is due to the swelling that takes place inside the nose.  After the swelling has subsided, however, the patient should notice an improvement in breathing.

Risks Associated with Septoplasty

All surgeries carry with them a certain amount of risks.  Some risks that are associated with any surgery include:

  • Bleeding
  • Bruising
  • Infection
  • Negative reaction to anesthesia
  • Scarring
  • Swelling

Generally, the risk of visible scarring is quite small with septoplasty because the work is done inside the nose.  There are, however, certain risks that are specifically associated with this procedure.  Some of these include:

  • Septal haematoma, which may occur immediately after the surgery and is characterized by a blood clot developing in the septum. 
  • Perforation of the septum, which is characterized by a hole within the septum and may cause pain or be more prone to infection
  • Toxic shock syndrome, which can be caused by bacteria in the nose and is activated when the nose is backed with cotton after the surgery

Although there are potential risks associated with a septoplasty, most patients feel that the benefits far outweigh the potential problems.  Nonetheless, it is best to discuss all of your options with your doctor before deciding what is right for you.

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