If you have difficulty breathing through your nose, it may be due to a deviated septum. This is a condition in which the nasal septum, a piece of cartilage and bone that separates your two nostrils, is off-center. If it is not directly in the middle of the nose, it can lead to breathing problems, snoring issues, and even sleep disorders like sleep apnea. In some cases, surgery is necessary to correct the deviation. Let’s explore when you should consider surgery, what the surgical procedure looks like, and what to expect during recovery.
Situations That Warrant Deviated Septum Repair
Many people live with a deviated septum for the entirety of their lives and never have any issues. If you notice that one side feels smaller than the other, or is crooked, you may have a deviated septum. But there are some situations in which your doctor will refer you to an Ear Nose & Throat specialist (ENT) for surgery to correct it. This can include:
- Breathing difficulties. If you have trouble breathing, especially if this impacts your quality of life and makes it difficult to exercise or sleep properly, then surgery might be necessary to repair the septum. Many people with a deviated septum need only minor corrections to breathe better. When more serious issues are present, surgery might be necessary.
- Recurring sinus infections. Sinus infections are common in those with allergies, those who smoke, or in those with respiratory issues. But, if you find that you’re getting frequent sinus infections, your deviated septum may be preventing your airways from draining properly. If this is the case, surgery is required to repair the deviated septum, which can help reduce or eliminate sinus infections.
- Sleep apnea. While you can have sleep apnea without a deviated septum, it occurs much more frequently in those that do. This is because deviated septa that are severe enough, can result in partial or complete nasal obstruction and difficulty breathing, which contributes to sleep apnea. Surgery may be the best option to correct both problems at once.
What Happens During Deviated Septum Surgery?
The most common surgical procedure used to repair a deviated septum is a “septoplasty” which is a relatively minor surgery that is typically performed in under an hour, and usually requires you to go under local anesthesia. During the surgery, an incision will be made in the nasal septum so that it can be straightened and repositioned in the middle of the nose. In some cases, the bone and cartilage may also be trimmed or reshaped to improve airflow through the nose.
Our ENT specialists will then decide if you need silicone splints to help support the septum during recovery. You may also be given nasal packing, which is a gauze-like material used to absorb blood or other fluids after surgery. If you are given nasal packing, it will be removed at your first follow-up appointment.
Possible Side Effects of Deviated Septum Surgery
As with any surgery, there are some potential side effects and risks involved. For a deviated septum, this could be:
- Bleeding. There is always a risk of bleeding during and after surgery. This is more likely to occur if you have a history of nosebleeds.
- Infections. There is also a risk of infection after surgery. This can be caused by the incision, nasal packing, or contact with other bacteria in the environment.
- Smell issues. Some individuals have a difficult time with their sense of smell.
- Difficulty breathing. In some cases, difficulty breathing can occur after surgery. This is more common when the septum is severely deviated and if other tissues or organs are damaged during surgery.
- Damage to surrounding tissues. In rare cases, damage to surrounding tissues or organs can occur during surgery. This is more likely to happen if there are any preexisting conditions.
- Scarring. There is always a risk of scarring after surgery, although this is usually minor and not noticeable unless you look for it.
If you experience any problems or side effects after surgery, contact your surgeon as soon as possible so that they can determine what the best course of action is for you.
Benefits of Deviated Septum Surgery
The biggest benefit to deviated septum surgery is that it can improve your quality of life by allowing you to breathe better and sleep more easily at night. It can also help reduce sinus infection frequency and may improve snoring or other sleep-related issues.
Recovery and Outlook After Deviated Septum Surgery
Although you may experience some pain, swelling, bruising, and bleeding after surgery, this should go away within a few days to a week. You may need to take antibiotics for several days before the surgery to help reduce the risk of infection. You should avoid doing the following after surgery:
- Blowing your nose for two weeks afterward.
- Any type of heavy lifting.
- No rigorous or intense activities.
It is recommended that you raise your head during sleep.
Most people can return to work within a week or two after surgery, although you may need more time if you are having difficulty breathing. It is recommended that you wait at least six months before undergoing any other cosmetic procedures on your nose.
Conclusion: Is Deviated Septum Surgery Right for You?
If you have a deviated septum and are experiencing symptoms such as a stuffy nose, difficulty breathing, sinus infections, snoring, or other issues then surgery may be an option for you. If you are unsure, one of our ENT specialists here at Floto Group can discuss the procedure at length with you to see if this is the right solution for your deviated septum. Simply give us a call at (407) 677-0099 or use our online form to book an appointment online.