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Nasal Surgery Allows Woman to Breathe Freely and Feel Confident

As a child, Allison Schumacher was teased at school about the size and shape of her nose. Her insecurity about her appearance started then and persisted into adulthood, but it wasn’t until she was in her mid-40s and experienced a life change that she decided to explore her options.

In August 2021, Allison, who lives in Akron, Ohio, met with Dane Genther, MD, a facial plastic and microvascular surgeon in Cleveland Clinic’s Head & Neck Institute. “I had noticed that my nose was becoming more distorted and pronounced as I aged,” she says. “With one nostril fully blocked, I was waking up a few times a night and thought I could probably sleep better if I had surgery. Also, after going through a divorce, I realized again that I never liked the way my nose looked. I wanted to see if Dr. Genther could take care of it all at once.”

That November, in a four-hour outpatient procedure at Cleveland Clinic Twinsburg Family Health and Surgery Center, Dr. Genther performed nasal valve reconstruction and septoplasty to straighten Allison’s deviated septum. The septum, which consists of cartilage and bone, separates the inside of the nose into two chambers, or nostrils. A deviated septum is crooked or bent, which can block airflow. In addition, Dr. Genther reduced the bump on her nose to flatten the bridge and refined the tip of Allison’s nose.

Patient upward view before (left) and after (right) image from septoplasty procedure.

 Before (left), After (right)

“In our group, about 75% of these procedures are functional and about 25% of these also have a cosmetic component,” Dr. Genther says. “Most people want to make their bridge straight, and so we do dorsal hump reduction, reducing cartilage and bone and narrowing the nose. The rest is working on the tip by modifying cartilage to make the nose smaller, more refined and symmetrical. It depends on the person, but sometimes we do grafting using the cartilage that was removed from the septum. In Allison’s case, even though the overall changes we made were subtle, they were big for her because we improved the symmetry of her nose so much.”

 Patient side profile before (left) and after (right) image from septoplasty procedure.

Before (left), After (right)

Patient downward view before (left) and after (right) image from septoplasty procedure.

Before (left), After (right) 

Dr. Genther and his colleagues treat a wide spectrum of patients who need septoplasty and nasal valve reconstruction. “Some wait until they are in their 70s to seek help, even if their noses were broken when they were 15,” he says. “Some have septum or nasal valve development that blocks their breathing and affects their sleep and quality of life, while others come soon after experiencing traumatic injuries.”

In older people with obstructed breathing, the change following surgery is “pretty dramatic because they don’t know what’s normal,” he says. He advises a medical exam for anyone having breathing problems, even if they perceive them as minor. “Their nasal obstruction could be much more significant than they think, as it was for Allison, and their breathing could become a whole lot better with surgery.”

Improvement after a cosmetic surgery also is dramatic, he says, “especially in younger girls who are self-conscious about how their nose looks.” He says that patients must wait until at least 15 or 16 years old, after their faces have stopped growing.

From a functional standpoint, Allison says, “I know the surgery worked because once I had the nasal dressings removed, I slept through the night.” The cosmetic effect was equally impressive, she says. “I’m very happy with how my nose looks now.”

Allison’s procedure and recovery took place during the COVID pandemic, when everyone was isolating. Within a year, when she began socializing again, no one could tell that she had a procedure, she says. “A close friend came up to me, within six inches from my face and struggled to see where I had surgery. As soon as I would tell someone, they would say, ‘Oh, my gosh!’ Those who know me well were in shock. Dr. Genther did such an excellent job. Both my parents have a bit of a pronounced nose, and my bump looked like a combination of theirs. Now, I resemble my mom, even without Dr. Genther having seen her.”

Her outlook on life has changed, as well. “I am much more confident, to the point where I don’t even think about my nose anymore,” she says. “I am able to breathe freely and sleep better. Dr. Genther gave me a basic necessity that improved my life in many ways, and I am so grateful. Dr. Genther, his nurses and office staff are very empathetic and responsive. I can’t say enough good things about them. I would recommend others go for a consult just to understand their situation and options. Life is too short, and you want to feel good!”

Related Institutes: Head & Neck Institute, Dermatology & Plastic Surgery Institute
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