Septoplasty is surgery to fix a crooked (or deviated) septum. This procedure allows better airflow through your nose and may improve breathing. Septoplasty is usually an outpatient procedure, so most people can go home the day of surgery. Swelling may last two to three days, but full recovery may take up to three months.
Septoplasty is surgery inside your nose to straighten a deviated septum. Your septum, about 7 centimeters long (2.5 to 3 inches) in adults, consists of cartilage and bone. It separates the inside of your nose into two chambers, or nostrils.
A deviated septum is a septum that’s crooked or bent instead of straight. It can block one or both nostrils and interfere with airflow. Your septum can become deviated from an injury, but you can also be born with it.
Is septoplasty a major surgery?
No. Septoplasty is a minor, low-risk procedure. Recovery usually takes a few days and requires an average of a week of downtime. But, as with any surgery, septoplasty carries some risks, including bleeding, infection and numbness.
People with a deviated septum and have nasal obstruction may need a septoplasty. In addition, healthcare providers may recommend septoplasty to:
While septoplasty is often performed as a stand-alone procedure, your provider may recommend septoplasty and turbinate reduction. During turbinate reduction, your surgeon reduces the size of the small, bony structures inside your nose.
Septoplasty is most commonly performed in adolescents and adults. While it’s not generally done in young children, there are certain instances when your child’s provider may recommend it.
Septoplasty is one of the most common procedures performed by otolaryngologists (ear, nose and throat doctors, or ENTs). Surgeons in the U.S. perform about 260,000 septoplasties every year.
Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy
You’ll meet with your healthcare provider to discuss your septoplasty. They’ll give you a list of preoperative instructions, which you should follow closely.
Your provider will need to know about all medications you’re currently taking, including nonprescription drugs, supplements and herbs. Before surgery, you should stop taking drugs like aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen and certain herbal supplements, which make it harder for blood to clot. You should also tell your provider if you have allergies or bleeding problems.
Septoplasty is usually performed on an outpatient basis, so most people go home the day of their surgery. In most cases, a healthcare provider will place you under general anesthesia. This means you’ll be asleep during the operation. Local anesthesia, which numbs the part of the body targeted for surgery, might be an option.
The procedure takes place entirely inside your nose. Your surgeon creates an incision (cut) on one side of your nose and lifts the mucosa (a thin membrane that covers and protects the septum). This allows your surgeon to reshape the septum’s bone and cartilage. Sometimes your surgeon will remove parts of the bone and cartilage, then reshape and reposition your nose’s underlying structures. Afterward, they’ll reposition the mucosa back over the septum. Your nose is not broken during surgery. The operation takes between 30 and 90 minutes.
Afterward, your surgeon may insert splints or soft packing to hold nasal tissue in place, prevent nosebleeds and reduce the risk of scar tissue. Usually, the splints stay in one week. Sometimes, your surgeon might leave only dissolving stitches, which disappear on their own over time.
Following septoplasty, you can expect mild to moderate discomfort. Many people compare the feeling to a sinus infection — with some pain and pressure around the eyes, across the forehead and across the cheeks and upper teeth. These side effects are normal and generally fade within a few days.
After your septoplasty, your medical team will keep a close eye on you while the anesthesia wears off. Once you’re awake and doing well, you’ll be able to go home.
Your surgeon will give you a list of postoperative instructions, which will help you manage pain, bleeding and swelling after your septoplasty. You should avoid exercise and heavy lifting during your recovery. This is because an increase in your heart rate and blood pressure could lead to additional bleeding, pain and swelling. Your surgeon will tell you when it’s safe to resume your normal routines.
(Note: Read more about postoperative care below, in the section “Recovery and Outlook”.)
Septoplasty can improve airflow through your nasal passages. This can result in a number of benefits. For example, septoplasty:
Septoplasty complications are rare. But, like any surgical procedure, there are potential risks. These include:
Initial septoplasty recovery usually takes about one week or less. But, overall healing of the bone and cartilage will continue for several months to one year.
Initial healing time for septoplasty is about one week. Your surgeon will provide you with specific postoperative guidelines, which you should follow closely during this time. Below are some general instructions to help you recover quickly and comfortably.
The outlook after septoplasty is generally good, with success rates up to 85%. But, about 15% of people who have septoplasty don’t notice a significant improvement in symptoms.
If you have constant trouble breathing through your nose, schedule a visit with your healthcare provider. Your may have nasal blockage due to a deviated septum, nasal polyps or other conditions. Septoplasty may be a good treatment option for you.
If you’ve recently undergone septoplasty, you should call your provider if you experience:
No. While rhinoplasty focuses on changing the external appearance of your nose or focuses on the structural support of your nose, septoplasty targets the structures inside your nose. Rhinoplasty is generally a cosmetic surgery procedure, while septoplasty restores function.
No. Septoplasty itself doesn’t change the shape of your nose. But, if you want to change the shape of your nose in addition to correcting your deviated septum, your surgeon may be able to combine septoplasty with rhinoplasty. Ask your healthcare provider about your treatment options.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Septoplasty is a minor surgery that offers major benefits for many people. It can open your nasal passages and improve your breathing. While septoplasty is a common procedure, it might not be right for everyone. So, if you have difficulty breathing through your nose, your healthcare provider will need to determine why. If you have nasal polyps or nasal septum deviation, septoplasty could ease your symptoms and improve your quality of life.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 09/19/2022.
Learn more about our editorial process.