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Definition | Reasons for Procedure | Possible Complications | What to Expect | Call Your Doctor


Septoplasty is a surgery to straighten a deviated septum. The septum is the wall dividing the left and right nasal cavities. It is made of cartilage and bone and is lined with a thin mucus membrane.

A normal septum is straight and in the center of the nose. A deviated septum is bent or off-center. Septal deviation may occur during development in the womb, during birth, as your nose grows, or after a traumatic injury. Septoplasty may be done at the same time as other nasal surgery, like rhinoplasty.

Reasons for Procedure

Septoplasty is considered if a deviated septum obstructs your nasal passages. The obstruction can cause impaired nasal breathing, sinus infections, obstructive sleep apnea, recurrent nose bleeds, or a runny nose. A deviated septum may also need to be corrected with septoplasty if it causes chronic headaches.

Deviated Nasal Septum

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Possible Complications

Complications are rare, but no procedure is completely free of risk. If you are planning to have a septoplasty, your doctor will review a list of possible complications, which may include:

  • Numbness in the tip of the nose or upper front teeth
  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Septal perforation—a hole in the septum
  • No improvement in symptoms
  • Poor cosmetic outcome

Some factors that may increase the risk of complications include:

  • Smoking
  • Bleeding disorders
  • Medical problems, such as cardiac disease
  • Cocaine use
  • Prior nasal surgery with excessive scarring
  • Taking certain medicines

What to Expect

To prepare for surgery, follow any instructions provided by your doctor.

  • Talk to your doctor about your medications, including vitamins, herbs, or dietary supplements. You may be asked to stop taking some medications up to one week before the procedure, like:
    • Anti-inflammatory drugs
    • Blood thinners
    • Anti-platelet medications
  • If you are having local anesthesia for the procedure, it is likely that no other special preparation is needed. If you will be having general anesthesia, your doctor will give you additional instructions.

Septoplasty can be done using local or general anesthesia. Local anesthesia will numb the area. General anesthesia will put you to sleep.

An incision will be made inside the nose. The lining of the septum will be lifted up and out of the way. The bent bone or cartilage will be straightened by moving it or cutting off the bent piece. After the repair is done, the lining will be replaced over the top of the septum. Gauze may be placed in the nose to soak up any blood. A plastic splint may also be inserted to keep the septum in place while it heals.

About 1 to 1-½ hours

Anesthesia will minimize pain during surgery. Following surgery, your nose may be tender or mildly painful. Ask your doctor about medicine to help with the pain.

Most patients leave the hospital or surgery center after 3-4 hours.

If nasal packing is used, it is removed 1-2 days after the surgery. The splint remains in the nose for up to a week. After the surgery, do the following to ensure a smooth recovery:

  • Try to breathe through your mouth for the first few days.
  • Do not blow your nose.
  • Keep your head elevated when lying down for the first 1-2 days.
  • Apply ice packs to your nose to reduce pain and swelling.
  • Do not take aspirin products for pain.
  • Your doctor may want to see you for a follow-up visit to monitor healing or to remove the gauze packing or splint.
  • Be sure to follow your doctor's instructions .

Call Your Doctor

After you leave the hospital, contact your doctor if any of the following occurs:

  • Signs of infection, including fever and chills
  • Redness, swelling, increasing pain, excessive bleeding, or discharge from the incision site
  • Heavy bleeding
  • Packing from your nose falls into the back of your throat, causing discomfort
  • Nausea and/or vomiting that you cannot control with the medications you were given after surgery, or which last for more than two days after discharge from the hospital
  • Vomit that is bloody or the color of coffee grounds
  • Pain that you cannot control with the medications you have been given
  • Cough, shortness of breath, or chest pain

In case of an emergency, call for medical help right away.


American Academy of Otolaryngology


The American Rhinologic Society



Canadian Society of Otolaryngology



Deviated septum. Cedars-Sinai website. Available at: http://www.cedars-sinai.edu/Patients/Health-Conditions/Deviated-Septum.aspx. Accessed July 23, 2013.

Deviated septum. Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh website. Available at: http://www.chp.edu/CHP/P02062. Accessed July 23, 2013.

Fact sheet: deviated septum. American Academy of Otolaryngology website. Available at http://www.entnet.org/HealthInformation/deviatedSeptum.cfm. Accessed July 23, 2013.

6/3/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/: Mills E, Eyawo O, Lockhart I, Kelly S, Wu P, Ebbert JO. Smoking cessation reduces postoperative complications: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Med. 2011;124(2):144-154.e8.

Last reviewed July 2013 by Marcin Chwistek, MD; Michael Woods, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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