Nasal septoplasty is a surgery performed to correct problems with the septum, the section of bone and cartilage between the nostrils. The procedure involves making one or more small incisions in the septum, removing excess bone or cartilage tissue, and straightening out the remaining tissue. Nasal septoplasty allows patients to breathe easier through their noses and lowers the risk of chronic or frequent sinus infections. The surgery has a high success rate, and most patients are able to return to normal activities in about one week.
People who have crooked, or deviated, septums can experience a range of problems, including snoring, frequent nosebleeds, sinus infections, and general breathing difficulties. Nasal septoplasty may be considered when medications and non-surgical aids fail to provide long-term symptom relief. A surgeon will thoroughly review a patient's x-rays, medical history, and current medication use to make sure he or she is a good candidate for the procedure. In most cases, surgeons prefer to work on relatively healthy adults whose facial bones are done growing.
Nasal septoplasty can usually be completed in an outpatient center in less than one hour. Upon arrival at a clinic, the patient is situated in an operating chair, similar to a dentist's chair, and given general anesthesia. The surgeon or an assistant flushes the nasal cavity with a saline solution and sterilizes the sides of the septum. One to three small incisions are made, and any overgrown sections of tissue are cut or filed away. The surgeon then manually realigns cartilage tissue in the septum, sometimes with the aid of stabilizing plastic pins.
Once the septum is straightened, the incisions are sutured and cotton packing is placed in the nostrils. The patient is brought to a monitoring room to recover from the anesthesia, which may take several hours. Before leaving the facility, the patient is given detailed home care instructions. It is important to keep the head elevated for at least 48 hours after nasal septoplasty to limit bleeding and swelling. Packing can usually be removed after the first day, and activities such as working and driving can be resumed in about a week.
It may take several weeks or months to fully recover from nasal septoplasty. Patients may experience pain and discomfort from swelling, but symptoms usually subside in the first two weeks. It may not be possible to breathe easily through the nose for the first month. After recovery is complete, however, most people enjoy significantly better breathing and sleep.