Deviated Septum Surgery: What to Expect During & After Your Procedure

Surgery to correct a deviated septum is called a septoplasty. This commonly performed procedure involves trimming and repositioning the nasal septum to the center of the nose to improve breathing. It’s usually performed on an outpatient basis, meaning a patient can return home the same day of their surgery. If you frequently experience deviated septum symptoms that don’t improve with conservative treatments, a septoplasty may be a viable treatment option for you.

What Is a Deviated Septum?

Some medical professionals estimate up to 80% of people have a deviated septum, which occurs when the piece of bone and/or cartilage that divides the nasal cavity is off-center. This leaves one nasal passage larger than the other. Sometimes the septum is “S” shaped, deflected to the right in one part of the nose and to the left in another, causing bilateral nasal restriction. In many people, the septum deviates during early life due to the way the nose grows while in other cases it results from trauma.

A deviated septum can cause a variety of issues, including:

  • Trouble breathing on one (or even both) side(s) of the nose
  • Loud breathing
  • Nosebleeds
  • Headaches and sinus pain
  • Nasal congestion
  • Sinus infections
  • Snoring

People with a mild deviated septum can often manage their symptoms through nonsurgical methods such as using nasal steroid sprays to improve the nasal congestion. For others, a septoplasty may be recommended to reposition the septum and provide long-term relief from symptoms.

What Happens During a Septoplasty?

A septoplasty is a surgical procedure to straighten the nasal septum and alleviate deviated septum symptoms. Deviated septum surgery is performed by an ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist, known as an otolaryngologist.

Here’s a brief overview of what happens during a septoplasty:

  1. A surgeon makes an incision on the inside of the nose in the front part of the septum.
  2. To reach the septal cartilage, the mucosa—the thin membrane that protects the septum—is elevated off the underlying cartilage and bone.
  3. The deviated septum is moved into correct position. Depending on the patient’s unique case, this may involve trimming, removing or adjusting pieces of bone or cartilage.
  4. The mucosa is placed back over the septum.
  5. The incision is closed with dissolving sutures and the mucosa is reattached back and forth with dissolving sutures. All of the work is done inside so no incisions are made on the outside of the nose. Soft packing (and rarely splints) are inserted into the nose and removed, the next day (to help keep nasal tissue in place and prevent scar tissue formation).

Deviated septum surgery usually takes about one hour to complete. It’s typically performed using general anesthesia, which means the patient is asleep during the operation.  After post-anesthesia recovery, the patient goes home.

Is Deviated Septum Surgery Painful?

A person who undergoes deviated septum surgery can expect a little swelling, numbness around the nose and mild to moderate pain after the procedure. Some patients compare the discomfort to that of a sinus infection, with pain lingering around the eyes, forehead, cheeks and the top row of teeth. Thankfully, the pain associated with a septoplasty is generally manageable and subsides in the early days after surgery. Patients generally don’t require narcotic pain medications and things like Tylenol and Ibuprofen are adequate. Aspirin products must be avoided two weeks before through two weeks after surgery. Blood thinner usage must be discussed with the surgeon before scheduling surgery.

What Does Deviated Septum Surgery Recovery Involve?

The septoplasty recovery process can vary from person to person based on several factors, including:

  • The patient’s age
  • The severity of the deviated septum

While most patients can expect to notice significant improvements in breathing shortly after deviated septum surgery, it can take about 6 weeks to achieve a full recovery.

It’s important for a patient to follow individualized recovery guidance from their surgeon. Generally speaking though, someone recovering from deviated septum surgery should:

  • Elevate their head with pillows at night to help reduce swelling for the first week or so after surgery
  • Try to sneeze with their mouth open for the first 2 weeks after surgery
  • Keep the incision site clean by carefully following all at-home care instructions

On the other hand, a recovering patient should avoid:

  • Nasal sprays other than what’s prescribed in the first 4 weeks after surgery
  • Needlessly bending over, holding their breath and performing other activities that place undue pressure on the face for about 2 weeks after surgery
  • Blowing their nose for at least three days after surgery
  • High-impact physical activities, such as running, playing contact sports and lifting weights for about one month after surgery

It’s important to contact your surgeon if you experience a heavy nosebleed, high fever, worsening pain or pain that does not improve with medication after surgery. Seek emergency medical care if trouble breathing, disorientation or a stiff neck occur.

Learn More About Deviated Septum Surgery

Florida Medical Clinic offers a complete spectrum of otolaryngology services from a skilled team of ENT specialists, including Dr. Michael Branch. If you’d like to explore your deviated septum treatment options or learn if you’re a candidate for septoplasty, use our website or call (813) 778-0101 today to schedule an appointment with Dr. Branch.

Get to Know Michael Branch, MD

A valued member of the Florida Medical Clinic team, Dr. Michael Branch is a board-certified otolaryngologist who practices at our locations in Watergrass and Zephyrhills. His history of medical military service and outstanding surgical expertise are just a few reasons why so many Tampa Bay-area residents trust him for specialized ENT care. In his free time, Dr. Branch enjoys fishing, diving, writing books and recording music.



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