The nasal septum is the wall between the nostrils that separates the two nasal passages. It supports the nose and directs airflow. The septum is made of thin bone in the back and cartilage in the front. A deviated septum means that the cartilage or bone isn't straight. A crooked septum can make it hard to breathe. It can also lead to snoring and sleep apnea.
The septum can bend to one side or the other as a part of normal growth during childhood and puberty. Also, the septum can be deviated at birth (congenital) or because of an injury, such as a broken nose. Very few people have a perfectly straight septum.
Before surgery, the doctor may use a thin, lighted tool (endoscope) to look at your nasal passages and to see the shape of your septum. In some cases, the endoscope may be used during surgery. You will receive local or general anesthesia for the 60- to 90-minute operation, which is usually done in an outpatient surgery center.
The septum and nasal passages are lined with a layer of soft tissue called the nasal mucosa. To repair the septum, the surgeon works through the nostrils, making an incision to separate the mucosa from the cartilage and bone. The doctor trims or straightens the bent cartilage and then replaces the mucosa over the cartilage and bone.
What To Expect After Surgery
After surgery, you may have a nasal splint or pack placed in your nostrils to stop bleeding and keep the septum straight while it heals.
You probably will get instructions on how to care for your nose while it is healing. For example, you may be told not to blow your nose and to sneeze with your mouth open to avoid pressure changes.
All surgery has a small risk of infection or bleeding. This surgery also carries a small risk of a hole (perforation) forming in the septum. A perforation rarely requires treatment. More surgery may be needed if the perforation causes discomfort or an infection develops.
Other risks include a small change in the shape of your nose or a continued blockage in your nose.
Current as of: March 1, 2023
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & Donald R. Mintz MD - Otolaryngology