Mountain Ear Nose and Throat Associates

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What is Septum Surgery?

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Woman with ENT

Septum surgery, also known as septoplasty, is a surgical procedure performed by an ear, nose and throat doctor. Little is known about this kind of operation so, below, we’ll explore the reasons septum surgery is necessary, what it entails, and what the signs are that it may be the right choice for you.

Why do people need septum surgery?

The septum is a thin wall of cartilage that divides the nostrils into two distinct areas. In some people, the septum can become deviated. This means that rather than neatly dividing the two nostrils, the septum is displaced, covering one side more than the other.

Septum surgery is a corrective procedure that seeks to rectify this deviation and place the septum into its correct, central place.

What causes a deviated septum?

Some people are simply born with a deviated septum; there’s no particular ‘cause’ in these cases. A 2012 study found that some 20 percent of newborn babies have a deviated septum.

Alternatively, a deviated septum may be caused by injury – often, the term “broken nose” is used as a catch-all for an injury that may well involve a deviated septum.

Do all deviated septums require surgery?

No. It is estimated that 80 percent of adults do not have a perfectly central septum; the vast majority have some form of tilt, making one side of the nasal passages less obstructed than the other. However, in most cases, this deviation is not substantial enough to require septum surgery.

Surgery is usually considered for a deviated septum that has become problematic, and where symptoms such as the following are present:

  • A feeling of the nasal passages being blocked, particularly on one side
  • Frequent sinus infections, and infections that do not respond to medication or other forms of treatment
  • Frequent nosebleeds
  • Postnasal drip
  • Snoring or noisy breathing while sleeping
  • Sleep apnea, if the deviated septum is the suspected cause of the condition

If the symptoms above are present and troublesome, then septum surgery will usually be recommended as a permanent solution.

What does septum surgery involve?

  • Septum surgery can be performed under local or general anesthetic – your doctor will advise you further on which they believe is the right choice for you.
  • The surgeon will make an incision on one side of the nose, then lift the mucous membrane that covers the septum.
  • The septum is then moved into the preferred place. This may sometimes involve removing cartilage or bone to ensure a good position is achieved.
  • The mucous membrane is then repositioned and the incision closed.
  • The nose will then usually be packed with cotton in order to control bleeding.

The surgery is relatively quick, lasting between 30-90 minutes depending on the severity of the deviation. For the first few days after the procedure, your nose is likely to be sore and swollen, though these issues can be mitigated with ice packs. Most people will recover quickly, and be able to resume regular activity in full within six weeks.

If you suspect that septum surgery might be beneficial for you, then contact an ear, nose and throat doctor to discuss your options when convenient.