When the wall of bone and cartilage that separates the nostrils, called the septum, becomes crooked, it causes difficulty with nasal breathing. Depending on the severity of the deviation and the position of the septum, either a septoplasty or septal reconstruction, both surgical procedure, are performed to restore healthy breathing and comfort.
What are the possible consequences of having a deviated septum?
The nasal septum is the wall that divides the right and left nasal passages. It is comprised of cartilage and bone, and it supports the overall nasal structure. The nasal septum can become deviated, or crooked, as a result of trauma or natural growth and development. This deviation can block the nasal passages, making it difficult to breathe. The condition can possibly lead to snoring or sleep apnea.
What is the procedure for correcting a deviated septum?
The surgery to correct a deviated septum is called a septoplasty or septal reconstruction. At The Comprehensive ENT Center of Texas in Austin, Dr. Daniel Leeman specializes in septoplasty and septal reconstruction. Because the septum continues to develop until the age of 18, the procedure is most often performed on adults. Either the septoplasty or septal reconstruction procedure may help correct:
- Nasal congestion or blockage of one or both nostrils
- Postnasal drip
- Sinusitis or sinus infection
- Headaches or facial pain
- Frequent nosebleeds
- Noisy breathing
Depending on the degree of deviation, a septoplasty can last from one to one and a half hours. Dr. Leeman often performs this outpatient procedure under local or general anesthesia.
How is a septoplasty performed?
Access to the septum is via a small incision on the side of the nose. The procedure begins by first septal cartilage lifting off the lining of the septal cartilage to reach the septum. It will then be moved into the correct position and, if there are any obstructions in the area, such as extra pieces of bone or cartilage, they will be removed.
In most cases, the procedure is done on an out-patient basis in our ear nose and throat (ENT) clinic, rather than a hospital, and takes 30 to 90 minutes.
Is septoplasty combined with other procedures?
Because there are so many structures and cavities within the nose that can have blockages, there are potentially multiple reasons for having difficulty breathing, and a deviated septum is just one.
Another is the enlargement of what are called “turbinates.” Turbinates are small, seashell-shaped structures in the nasal passages. They contain blood vessels and other types of tissues. As part of your entire breathing network, they allow air into the system that will reach the lungs. The purpose of turbinates is to humidify and warm the air you breathe in, so that cold air does not reach the lungs.
What is the recovery time after septoplasty?
The first 48 hours are often the most difficult, and you are likely to experience pain, fatigue, stiffness, and nasal drainage. Dr. Leeman will give you a prescription for medication to reduce any pain or discomfort during this time. Facial swelling can last two to three days.
You may have been given packing or splints. Packing will be removed 24 to 36 hours after surgery. Splints can be left in place for one to two weeks, which is the normal recovery time. Dissolvable sutures are most often used to close the incision, and these will disintegrate and be absorbed into the skin on their own.