Are there risks or complications with septoplasty?

Risks or complications are rare and unlikely. One risk is that bleeding may become excessive during surgery, especially if the patient did not stop taking blood-thinning medications beforehand. If this happens, the doctor may decide not to go ahead with the operation.

Infection is possible because the inside of the nose is not sterile. Toxic shock syndrome is an unusual and life-threatening infection, mostly related to packing being placed, which is rare. Symptoms include change in blood pressure and heart rate, fever and skin discoloration. If symptoms appear, notify the doctor or surgeon immediately.

Another rare occurrence is spinal fluid leakage. It can happen because the top of the septum is near the skull and brain, which is surrounded by protective cerebrospinal fluid. If spinal fluid leaks, infection can result. That might lead to meningitis, a serious condition involving inflammation of membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord.

A septoplasty patient might also develop a hematoma, which is swelling caused by clotted blood in tissue, or an abscess, which is a pocket of pus inside the body.

Numbness in the upper teeth and lip or tip of the nose can follow septoplasty. That’s because nerves leading to the gums and front teeth in the upper jaw run through the nose. Those nerves might stretch or become damaged during surgery. Usually the numbness is temporary and ceases after a few weeks or months.

A septal perforation, a hole in the nasal septum, is another possibility. If the perforation does not cause symptoms, the doctor will leave it alone. But if the perforation leads to crusting, dryness or obstruction in the nasal passage, the doctor can perform another surgery to close the perforation or insert a synthetic button over it.

Changes in taste and smell, and voice quality and characteristics, can also affect septoplasty patients. The nose might appear uneven, or the bridge of the nose might dip, but such cosmetic changes can be repaired.

Finally, although more than 90% of septoplasty patients enjoy improved breathing, some do not. Unfortunately, the septum has a “memory” and sometimes returns to its original shape.

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