There are many reasons an individual may consider surgically altering their nose, and several different types of surgery can be employed. The most widely known form of these surgeries is rhinoplasty. Rhinoplasty addresses the shape, size, and symmetry of the nose by adjusting the outer structures of the nose. Another surgery, a septoplasty, addresses the shape and symmetry of the nose by making adjustments to the internal structure of the nose, specifically the septum.
Which surgical option may be best for you, and is a septoplasty worth it? That depends on the issues you are facing and the results you are trying to achieve.
What is Septoplasty For?
The septum is the cartilage and bone that divides the nasal cavity into a left and a right side. It provides structure and symmetry to the nose. Crooked septums, also known as deviated septums, are actually quite common, and it’s estimated that they affect somewhere between 70 to 80% of the population. A crooked or deviated septum not only has the ability to affect a person’s appearance but can also make it more difficult to breathe, leading to increased headaches and infections. Septoplasty is often used to correct these issues.
Other surgeries to correct the shape and functionality of the nose include:
Submucosal or Turbinate Resection
Turbinates, also referred to as nasal conchae, are long, curled shelves of bone inside the nose that protrude into the nasal passages. Enlarged turbinates, sometimes caused by a deviation of the septum, can block the passage of air through the nose. In these cases, you might need a submucosal resection (turbinate resection) to correct the situation. A submucosal resection alone causes little to no change in outward appearance. In some cases, this surgery is combined with septoplasty to straighten the nose and achieve maximum functionality.
Rhinoplasty addresses the outer structure of the nose, particularly its size and shape. While most rhinoplasty surgeries are elective, some are medically necessary. Certain misalignments, not necessarily related to the septum, can lead to issues that can affect the person’s quality of life. Under some circumstances, both rhinoplasty and septoplasty are performed, a process known as rhinoseptoplasty. This procedure addresses both the internal and external structure of the nose.
The Septoplasty Procedure
While some rhino and septoplasty procedures can be completed using only local anesthesia, most patients will be placed under general anesthesia, meaning they will be asleep during the entire procedure. Once the anesthesia has been administered, the process typically takes between 30 and 90 minutes. Incisions are made within the nasal cavity, and the membrane that encloses the septum is peeled back. The surgeon then reshapes the septum, removing parts of the bone and cartilage if needed, and restores the membrane.
Splints are placed in the nose to keep the septum in place for the first one or two weeks. Soft packing protects the stitches and should remain in the nose for 24 to 36 hours after the septoplasty surgery.
Benefits of Septoplasty
Not every individual with a deviated septum will be affected to the point that they will even notice—much less consider surgery. People with moderate to severe deviations may consider septoplasty to correct a number of different conditions. Along with adjusting the outward symmetry of the nose, septoplasty can:
- Address snoring and sleep apnea
- Decrease the number and severity of nose bleeds
- Decrease the number and severity of sinus infections
- Ease breathing problems
- Improve sleep
- Reduce facial pain and headaches
Risks and Cost of Septoplasty
Septoplasty surgeries are usually well tolerated and have few long-lasting side effects, though temporary swelling is common. In rare cases, it can lead to some serious conditions that people should be aware of, including:
- Changes in taste and smell
- Perforation of the septum
- Temporary or permanent facial numbness on and below the nose
- Toxic Shock Syndrome
- Vocal changes
In addition, not all septoplasties are successful. Approximately 15% of patients report that the symptoms related to their deviated septum remain even after surgery. A small percentage of septums may also return to their original shape or begin to deviate to the other side.
A note about smoking and nicotine
All smoking and vaping should cease for 2 to 4 weeks both before and after the surgery. These activities are particularly irritating to the tissues of the nose, complicating the healing process. This is especially true of smoking tobacco products. Nicotine also constricts the blood vessels, which reduces blood flow to the nose. Smoking or ingesting nicotine during this time can result in improper or delayed healing.
The cost to correct a deviated septum with a septoplasty can range anywhere from a few thousand dollars up to $30,000 or more. Many different things affect where in that range a specific septoplasty’s cost lands, from the type of anesthesia used to the severity of the deviation itself. While rhinoplasty surgery isn’t typically covered by insurance, septoplasty often is covered as medically necessary.
Is Septoplasty Worth It?
Septoplasty is generally a well-tolerated procedure that can be completed on an outpatient basis, but it does carry a few risks. The surgery can be fairly expensive, especially for severe deviations and those with complications, but is often covered by insurance. Whether or not this is the right surgery for you will depend on several factors and should be discussed with a medical professional. Not only will a specialist be able to help you weigh the options, but they will also be able to determine if a resection or rhinoplasty may be indicated at the same time.