What is Septoplasty and What Does it Entail?

Septoplasty is a surgical procedure performed to correct the position of the nasal septum. It's a necessary operation since this abnormality can cause different health problems.
What is Septoplasty and What Does it Entail?

Written by Edith Sánchez

Last update: 27 May, 2022

Septoplasty is a surgical procedure to repair the nasal passages and facilitate breathing. It’s an operation that’s usually performed on patients with a deviated septum, recurrent rhinitis, or sinus problems.

Septoplasty is also known as septal reconstruction. It’s important to clarify that this isn’t an aesthetic procedure. Although it generates a change in the shape of the nose, the objective of the intervention is not to improve appearance, but to avoid health difficulties.

What is septoplasty?

Septoplasty is a corrective surgical procedure to straighten deviated septa. The septum must be in the center of the nose. If not correctly aligned, one of the nostrils risks becomes narrower. This, in turn, prevents normal air flow and causes breathing difficulties.

The presence of a deviated nasal septum is known as septal dysmorphia. It’s an alteration whose origin can be congenital or acquired. In the first case, it’s the result of intrauterine compressions, birth trauma, or alterations in craniofacial development. In the second, it’s due to trauma or alteration in balanced growth.

Nasal deviation may cause obstruction, predominantly oral breathing, predisposition to sleep apneas, and a dry mouth. It’s a problem that’s often the result of allergies or narrow nasal passages.

A skull with a deviated septum.
A deviated nasal septum interrupts patients’ normal breathing, making gas exchange difficult.

Read more: The 9 Most Common Allergies in Kids

What does this intervention involve?

In most cases, septoplasty involves general anesthesia. It’s an outpatient operation, that is, it doesn’t require prolonged hospitalization.

The patient who’s going to undergo this intervention lies on their back on a stretcher. Their head must be elevated above the torso, at about 30 degrees.

The procedure begins with vasoconstrictive and anesthetic infiltrations in the septal mucosa. This allows for the correct dissection between the cartilage and the bone. Then surgeons lift the mucosa, which is the inner lining of the nose. In this way, they expose the tissue that requires remodelation.

Sometimes, removing small pieces of bone and cartilage is necessary. The next step is to put the mucosa back in place and close it with sutures. The surgeon will usually leave a nasal plug in place for 48 hours so that no bruising or bleeding occurs.

Differences between septoplasty and rhinoplasty

In general terms, rhinoplasty refers to any nose surgery. However, septoplasty and rhinoplasty are not the same thing. On the one hand, septoplasty aims to correct a dysmorphic septum and nasal wall. On the other hand. rhinoplasty seeks to modify the shape of the nose.

A rhinoplasty is an operation that modifies the external nasal structure, improving its aesthetic appearance. Although in some cases it can help the correct functioning of the nose, this isn’t the specific purpose of the surgery. In conclusion, the main difference is that septoplasty has a medical origin, rhinoplasty is of aesthetic origin.

Before and after the surgery: What to consider?

To have a septoplasty, you must talk to your doctor about how to prepare yourself and what risks it may involve. You should have your medical history available to answer any questions the doctor may have about your medical history.

Your doctor will perform a physical examination in which they’ll scan the skin on the inside and outside of your nose. The professional may take photographs that will serve as a reference for you during the coming operation.

Before this surgery, it’s best not to take any medication such as ibuprofen or aspirin. That’s they could increase bleeding. If you’re a smoker, your doctor will ask you to stop smoking days before the operation. The day before, you mustn’t eat too much or drink any alcoholic beverages.

After the operation you should consider the following:

  • Rest with your head slightly elevated.
  • Avoid blowing your nose for a few weeks.
  • Wear clothes that open and close in the front or back to avoid pulling them over your head.
  • Do not perform strenuous activities, such as aerobics.
  • Avoid foods that are very hot and avoid alcohol.
  • Don’t smoke during the first months.
What does the recovery from septoplasty involve?
The recovery time for a septoplasty is variable, but it’s important to follow your doctor’s indications to reduce complications.

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The recovery from septoplasty

It’s normal to feel slight swelling in the face, headache, and nasal obstruction during the first day after the septoplasty. The discomfort is usually mild during recovery and is easily controlled with oral analgesics. Congestion tends to disappear after a week.

In general, your doctor will instruct you to rest all day after surgery. To help relieve the swelling, you can place cold compresses on your face, without moistening your nose. During the first 24 hours, you shouldn’t take baths or showers. To clean the area, you must follow the instructions your doctor provides upon discharge.

If you have trouble breathing, heavy nosebleeds that won’t stop, you should call your doctor or go to the hospital. The same is true if you experience pain that won’t go away with painkillers, high fever and chills, disorientation, or a stiff neck.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

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This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.