How a septoplasty is performed depends on the anatomies and underlying problems. Nevertheless, its goal is to correct the misaligned or deviated septum or the wall separating the two nostrils, thus improving one’s breathing functions and even quality of life.
Dr. Karan Dhir, one of the leading Beverly Hills plastic surgeons, says septoplasty as a stand-alone procedure takes 30-90 minutes to complete, although it could be longer when combined with rhinoplasty in which the “outside” appearance of the nose is improved as well.
Septoplasty and rhinoplasty (or nose job) are commonly performed together if there is also a desire for cosmetic improvement. Also, it gives the surgeon the opportunity to use the nasal cartilage (or “main structure” supporting the nose) instead of getting it from other donor sites such as the bowl of the ear or rib.
As a stand-alone procedure, septoplasty rarely changes the outside appearance of the nose unless there is a very visible deviation prior to surgery.
Most septoplasties use incisions in the nostrils so there is no risk of visible scar. During surgery, doctors will make a cut on one side of the nose to lift the mucous membrane around the deviated septum.
The deviated septum is then straightened and any barrier or protruding nasal bone or cartilage is removed, trimmed, or filed. Once the necessary adjustments are made, the mucous membrane is positioned back.
Most patients will need stitches to support the new contour or hold the septum and membrane in place, although others will only require cotton, soft plastic sheets, or splints to keep them in position.
The success of any type of nose surgery (both reconstructive and cosmetic procedures) is largely determined by the surgeon’s level of skills. Ideally, it is performed by someone who has double board certifications in facial plastic surgery and ENT (ear, nose, and throat).
In most cases, septoplasty results in a straightforward recovery, with pain easily managed by prescribed medications. However, aspirin and aspirin-like products must be avoided for about 1-2 weeks to prevent healing problems, persistent swelling, and bleeding.
Instead of the actual pain, patients often think that nasal stuffiness is the most bothersome symptom, which could take up to six weeks to dissipate. However, controlling the amount of swelling (through head elevation, ice packs, and low-sodium diet) is one way to improve breathing function.
Ice packs have also been shown to control pain, although the general rule of thumb is to use them not more than 20 minutes at a time to avoid cold burns and injuries.