The nasal septum is the thin, wall-like structure that divides the left and right nostrils. It is made of bone as well as cartilage, and is covered with a membrane that is rich in blood vessels. An ideal nasal septum has to located exactly on the midline, thereby dividing the left and right nasal passages in equal size. Most people have a nasal septum that is slightly off the center or midline. This may not cause any symptom and goes unnoticed in most cases. The condition is termed a 'deviated septum', when the misalignment is so substantial to cause symptoms. The severity of symptoms often vary with the degree of misalignment of the septum. In such cases, medicines offer temporary relief only, and surgical correction is the cure. However, deviated septum surgery or septoplasty is mostly recommended for those, who experience severe symptoms and complications.
Surgery for Nasal Septum Deviation
In simple words, septoplasty can be defined as the surgery to straighten a deviated nasal septum. If the deviation of the septum is substantial enough to cause severe symptoms, that cannot be completely relieved with medication, then septoplasty is suggested as the cure. Sometimes, this surgery is done for cosmetic reasons. In some cases, it is done along with rhinoplasty, a cosmetic surgery meant for improving the looks of the nose.
PreparationDeviated septum surgery is usually done on an outpatient basis, using local or general anesthesia. You must inform the doctor about your current medical conditions and medication. It is advisable to discuss your medical history too. You may be asked to avoid use of certain medication, like aspirin, for two weeks prior to the surgery. Smoking and alcohol consumption must also be avoided. You may be asked to fast for at least six hours prior to the surgery. On the day of the surgery, avoid wearing clothes that have to be pulled over the face. You will need somebody to drive you back home. So make arrangements for the same.
ProcedureAs the name rightly suggests, a deviated septum surgery is aimed at correcting the deviation of the nasal septum. The surgery is done through the nostrils. An incision is made on the membrane that covers the septum. The membrane is then separated from the septum, which has to be reshaped. Some parts of the septum may be cut or removed, to make it straight. Once done, the membrane is replaced over the septum and the incision is sutured. The surgeon may place some splints inside the nose, to support the septum, while healing. In some cases, packing may be used to prevent bleeding. Usually, the surgery takes around 60 to 90 minutes. However, the duration may increase in complicated cases.
AftereffectsIt is normal to have some symptoms, for the first few days, after a deviated septum surgery. You may experience numbness of the nose, cheeks and lips. A blocked nose, along with a watery nasal discharge is also a common aftereffect of septoplasty. Slight bleeding from the nose may also occur, for two to three days. The nose, cheeks, and the eyes may remain swollen for a few days after the surgery. The eyes may develop a burning sensation and sometimes, itching too. As in case of any other surgery, pain is also an aftereffect, that is relieved with painkillers.
AftercareOnce the surgery is done, you will be moved to the recovery room. It is most likely that you will be discharged on the same day itself. Sometimes, overnight stay may be recommended. You may be advised to avoid strenuous activities for a few weeks. Avoid blowing the nose, for a few days. Keep your head in an elevated position, so as to lower the risk of bleeding. You may use cold compresses for relief from swelling. Avoid wearing tight clothes that have to be pulled over the face. Make sure to avoid visiting crowded places, where there are higher chances of contracting infections.
ComplicationsThough a small amount of bleeding is expected after septoplasty, heavy bleeding is considered a complication. Such bleeding may develop right after the surgery or a few days later. Another complication is infection, which is usually avoided by administering antibiotics as a preventive measure. In some rare cases, nasal perforation may also happen. Another uncommon complication of deviated septum surgery is change in the shape of the nose. In case of high fever and/or breathing problems, you must seek immediate medical attention.
RecoveryIn most cases, the amount of discomfort will reduce within a few days after the surgery. The splints will be removed within seven to ten days. The recovery time may vary from one person to another. Usually, a week or two is sufficient, before you rejoin your work. If the work involves physical activities, you may be required to wait for another couple of weeks. The exact duration has to be decided by your surgeon, who is the best person to judge your health condition.
While some people are born with a deviated septum, the most common cause for the condition is nasal injury. Any type of accident or injury that involves the nose, may cause misalignment of the septum. The nasal septum may also bend to one side or the other due to aging. The common symptoms of septum deviation are nasal congestion, difficulty in breathing, post nasal drip, recurrent sinus infections, frequent headaches, facial pain, snoring, sleep apnea, nose bleeding, sneezing, etc.
To conclude, a septoplasty is usually found beneficial for remedying most of the health problems associated with a deviated septum. Significant improvement is seen in the rate of airflow through the nostrils and breathing. However, the surgery may fail to produce any positive effect, in certain people. So it is important to have a basic understanding about the surgery, its risks and complications, and results, before you opt for it.
Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice. Visiting your physician is the safest way to diagnose and treat any health condition.