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Treatments & Procedures


The septum is the piece of cartilage and bone that gives shape and support to the nose. If it’s bent or irregular, it can cause difficulty breathing or make the nose appear crooked.

This surgery (septoplasty) can be performed for a variety of reasons:

  • To improve breathing. Septoplasty can be used to relieve nasal airway obstruction. The surgery can remove the malformed cartilage and bony portion of the septum, allowing normal airflow.
  • As a secondary operation to a rhinoplasty (nose job). In this instance, a septoplasty is often performed to improve the airway or straighten a crooked nose.

It’s important to remember that if you’ve had a nose injury, you may not be able to undergo septoplasty for at least six months after the injury.

Septoplasty can relieve the following: nasal airway obstruction, which can force you to breathe by your mouth; it can also be part of the surgery for sleep apnea.

How is a septoplasty done?

In your pre-surgery consultation, your surgeon will examine your nasal airway and evaluate how air flows from each nostril in order to determine exactly how to handle your situation. Your allergies, medications, and health history will also be reviewed. It is helpful to bring your current medications with you.

Your surgery will usually be done on an outpatient basis under general anesthesia.

During the actual procedure, your surgeon will make an incision internally on one side of the nasal septum. He or she will lift the mucous membrane (mucosa) away from the cartilage, removing the obstructive cartilage and occasionally some bone. Your surgeon will usually use splints inside your nose to support the septum during healing. These splints will then be removed during one of your post-op visits.

How should I prepare for a septoplasty?

You should allow one to two weeks in your schedule when you can be free of work and social commitments. Most patients are comfortable being out in public by two weeks after surgery.

Two weeks prior to surgery, you will need to stop taking aspirin and other medications that can increase your risk of bleeding.

You should have nothing to eat or drink after midnight on the night before your surgery.

On the day of surgery, you should wear a loose button-down blouse or shirt; that is, one that does not need to be pulled over your head or face.

If your procedure is to be done on an outpatient basis, you will need someone to drive you home and stay with you the first twenty-four hours. Your surgeon may need to see you back the morning after your surgery.

We recommend having the following items available:

  • Gauze
  • Container to hold water for cool compresses. DO NOT use ice packs.
  • Button-down blouses or shirts which do not need to be pulled over your head
  • General painkillers, such as acetaminophen. (Continue to avoid aspirin and other medications like ibuprofen for approximately one week after surgery.)
  • Have any prescriptions for pain medications or antibiotics filled before you get home.
  • A cool mist humidifier is recommended, but not mandatory.

What should I expect after a septoplasty?

Your surgeon will give you a prescription painkiller and a list of post-operative instructions. It’s extremely important to follow these instructions very carefully to make sure your nose heals properly. Your doctor might pack your nose with dressings. Your surgeon will usually remove the packing during the first few days following the surgery. The only person who should remove this packing is your surgeon. Make sure you understand exactly how and why your surgeon packs your nose, and the follow-up care that is required to ensure proper treatment.

If your surgeon has covered your nose with a splint, you can have this removed in just about one week. If you have internal stitches, these will dissolve. If you have external stitches, your surgeon will want to remove these in about one week.

What are the possible complications or side effects of a septoplasty?

  • As with any surgery, there is always a risk of infection. Your surgeon may prescribe an antibiotic as a precaution.
  • You should expect some nasal drainage with a small amount of bleeding for the first few days after surgery.
  • You may experience numbness of the nose, cheeks, and upper lip. Numbness in the tip of the nose may take several months to return to normal. Other areas will resolve more quickly.
  • You should expect some bruising and swelling of the nose, eyelids, and upper lip. Most of this will resolve in the first two weeks after surgery.
When to call a doctor
  • Fever
  • Excessive bleeding
  • Difficulty breathing

Does insurance cover septoplasty?

Insurance coverage for septoplasty will depend on two factors: the reason it’s being done, and your insurance carrier. It’s important that you call your insurance carrier and find out the details of your particular plan. Don’t assume it’s covered! If septoplasty is required to correct a medical problem (such as difficulty breathing), or due to nose injury, then your insurance carrier will be more likely to cover the procedure. Insurance plans do not provide coverage for elective cosmetic surgery. If you are undergoing a septoplasty along with a rhinoplasty, for cosmetic purposes, make sure you understand all associated costs and what you are expected to pay.

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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 1/17/2007…#11022