What Is It Like To Have Septoplasty?
Your nasal septum is made up of cartilage and bone. It's covered by a layer of tissue called mucosa. If you have a deviated septum, our Scottsdale Sinus Surgeon, Dr. Gergits, may recommend septoplasty, a procedure which will correct the dividing wall between your nostrils. This will fix airflow issues caused by this common condition and help with symptoms you may be experiencing, such as frequent nosebleeds, recurring sinus infections, and nasal airway breathing restrictions which can cause sleep disturbances. It is a very common type of surgery performed to treat nasal blockages.
This is a routine, surgical procedure usually performed on an outpatient basis. Most patients breathe easier, sleep better, and experience fewer sinus problems and nosebleeds after surgery and recovery is complete.
During the procedure, we will start with anesthesia. This could be performed in a surgery center, a hospital’s operating room, or now even in our in-office surgical suite. After you are numb and comfortable, I begin the procedure by making an incision inside your nose which will not be seen by you or others.
Next, I gently lift the delicate septal mucosa out of the way so I may reshape the cartilage and bone underneath.
In most cases, I remove sections of the cartilage or bone to make it easier to reshape the nasal anatomy. I then restore the mucosa to its proper position and usually use a dissolvable suture to close the incision. This procedure is considered “functional” and not “cosmetic” since it restores proper nasal function and is not designed or intended to change the outward appearance of the nose.
We may also use splints and/or packing inside the nose to strengthen and maintain these changes. Every nose is a little different, so whether we use these solutions will depend greatly on how deviated your septum is and what it will take to correct your nose. The whole surgical procedure usually takes 15-30 minutes.
Because you will be under a sedation type of anesthesia, we do require you to have someone drive you to and from the surgery.
Recovery: What Should I Expect After Septoplasty?
You can expect about 2-5 days of nasal pain and possibly some bleeding. Although rare, excessive bleeding can occur and is described as bleeding that drains out the front of the nose and streams, not drips. If bleeding does occur, Afrin-saturated cotton balls placed snugly inside the nose usually do the trick. Afrin (oxymetazoline) helps contract the dilated blood vessels and stops the bleeding. This is useful for any nosebleed.
After septoplasty, you may be given a prescription for pain medication to be taken after your procedure. However, most patients will commonly see adequate pain reduction by just using Tylenol and Motrin, alternating every 2 hours. Some patients also get some pain in their front teeth. This is because there is a nerve that runs from your nose to your front teeth that can get bruised during the procedure.
Tips For A Better Recovery:
You can decrease the nasal swelling and congestion after the procedure by resting with your head elevated, such as in a recliner, and some patients will even sleep in the recliner for a few days.
A humidifier pointed at your face while you sleep will help keep the inside of your nose moist throughout the night. You should begin to use a saline spray (Ocean Nasal Spray, AYR, Simply Saline or a generic version of the nasal saline) to keep the inside of your nose clean and moist while you heal. Afrin nasal spray is also recommended for 3-5 days after the procedure, but DO NOT USE THIS SPRAY LONGER THAN 5 DAYS at any time. Prolonged use of Afrin can lead to “Afrin addiction” in which the nose becomes increasingly congested without near-constant use of Afrin to decongest.
If you notice that your nasal cavity is completely blocked from crusts and scabbing, try taking a hot, steamy shower and try to breathe the moist air into your nose. After this, if your nose is still blocked, make a crude salt solution by getting an 8 ounce glass of warm tap water, adding 1 Tbsp. of table salt and stirring until dissolved. (If you have well water, then boil the water first.) Then saturate a few cotton balls in the warm salt solution you’ve just made. Place these cotton balls into the front of your nose/nostrils and tilt your head backwards. Replace the saltwater-cotton balls as needed until you feel the saltwater start to penetrate the deeper nasal cavity. You can do this as long as you need.
Once the cotton balls have done the trick, you can dip some cotton tipped applicators into the saltwater solution and gently clean just inside the nose in a circular fashion to remove and break up the dry crusts. After the nasal cavity is opened, resume the saline mist and Afrin spray. Remember: no Afrin after 5 days total.
You should avoid blowing your nose for 1-2 weeks after septoplasty. Sneeze with your mouth open and avoid any trauma to the nose from children and pets. Accidental injury will cause pain but usually won’t result in deformity unless the injury is significant. You will be able to shower and eat normally right away.
If you work in an office-type setting, you can usually get back to work in 1-3 days. Keep in mind that you must avoid driving or placing you or anyone in harm’s way if you are using a narcotic for pain control. If your job is more labor-intensive and involves heavy lifting, we may ask you to wait a few days longer before you return to work. You can engage in light exercise after one week of recovery, but we recommend avoiding strenuous exercise for up to 4 weeks. If you know you work in an environment with lots of dust and airborne particles, you may also want to wear a mask.
The changes will all be internal. However, you may notice your nostril sizes are more equal. It is very rare that anyone would have bruising on the nose or face after septoplasty.
Complications with septoplasty are rare, though infection or a reaction to the anesthesia is possible. Some patients experience a “septal hematoma” in which blood will collect under the skin of the nose. If this occurs, the bloody drainage will need to be removed and this can be taken care of in the office. Some patients may also experience a septal perforation, which is a hole in the septum, and rarely produces any symptoms.
You will schedule a follow-up visit 7-14 days after your procedure so that we can prevent or address any complications which may arise. You will also receive Dr. Gergits’ cell phone number for more urgent issues.