What is septal surgery?
The septum is a thin piece of cartilage and bone which is found inside the nose and separates it into two chambers. In adults it measures approximately 7cm long.
In some people the septum is bent causing obstruction of one or both sides of the nose. This can happen either due to injury or abnormal growth. An operation can be performed to straighten it.
Why have septal surgery?
If you have a blocked nose because of the bend in the septum, an operation will help.
Sometimes you need to have the septum straightened to give room to do other things such as sinus surgery. The operation is not meant to change the way your nose looks.
In some cases a bent septum may coexist with a twist in the shape of the nose. In these cases septal surgery may be combined with nasal re-shaping surgery (septorhinoplasty).
Do I have to have septal surgery?
If you can live with nasal blockage caused by a bent septum then there is no reason for having the operation. This is something that you only can decide.
How is the operation done?
The operation takes about 30-45 minutes under a general anaesthetic. The operation is all done from inside the nose and there are no scars or bruises on your face.
An incision is done inside the nose and the septum is straightened by partially removing some cartilage and bone and moving the rest of the septum back to the midline This is held with stitches inside the nose. Complex cases may need to be combined with a rhinoplasty procedure.
At the end of the operation there might be a need for placement of dressings (packs) or pieces of plastic (splints) inside the nose to prevent bleeding. Packs are usually removed the next day after the operation. Splints are left in for 3-4 days.
What happens after the operation?
It is expected that the front of your nose will be slightly tender for a few days after the operation You should avoid blowing your nose for a few days to prevent bleeding. If you want to sneeze, do it with your mouth open to protect your nose. You may get some blood coloured watery fluid from your nose for the first 2 weeks or so.
Your nose will be blocked like having a cold for the first 10-14 days. You will get some drops or spray to help this.
There will be some stiches inside your nose. These will dissolve and usually will fall out by themselves.
How long will I be off work?
You can expect to go home the day after the operation. Sometimes it is possible to go home the same day.
You need to rest at home for at least a week. If you do heavy lifting and carrying at work you should take 2 weeks off. You should not play sports where there is a risk of your nose being knocked for about a month.
What are the possible complications?
Septal surgery is safe, but there are some risks. Sometimes your nose can bleed after this operations. This can happen within the first 6-8 hours after surgery or up to 5-10 days after surgery. Rarely, you may need to return to the operating theatre to stop the bleeding.
Infection in your nose is rare after this operation but if it happens it should be dealt with promptly from your doctor.
Rarely, the operation may leave you with a hole on your septum. This can cause a whistling noise when you breathe, crusting with blockage or nosebleeds. Most of the time it causes no problem at all and needs no treatment.
Is there any alternative treatment?
Only an operation can fix a bent septum but nose spray or drops can help treat swelling in the nose which might be causing blockage.