Resetting The Septum: The Ins And Outs Of Corrective Surgery For A Deviated Septum

When you think of all the parts of your body that you might like to have reshaped and corrected with surgery, that weird bit of flesh and cartilage that separates your nostrils, commonly known as the septum, probably isn't particularly high on the list. However, for certain people who suffer from a deviated septum, minor surgical correction of this fleshy protuberance can lead to a massive increase in comfort and quality of life.

What is a deviated septum?

Under ideal circumstances, a person's septum is perfectly straight and allows equal airflow through both the left and right nostrils. Very few people actually possess this perfectly aligned septum, but in most cases a person's septum is only slightly bent and does not create any appreciable problems or symptoms.

However, some people suffer from more profoundly misaligned septums, and in these circumstances this small part of the body can create big problems.  In some cases a septum is deviated from birth, but a septum can also be knocked out of alignment by injury (such as a broken nose), and problems may also be caused by certain connective tissue disorders such as Ehlers-Danlos syndrome.

People with severely deviated septums can suffer from a range of problems, ranging from the mild to the severe. Breathing difficulties are the most common symptom, but other potential symptoms include sleep apnoea,  problems with chronic nasal and sinus infections, persistent snoring, frequent nosebleeds and even an impinged sense of smell. 

How can a deviated septum be corrected with surgery?

As you can imagine, all of these symptoms can have a dramatic effect on a person's overall health. The symptoms produced by a mildly deviated septum can be countered using non-invasive methods, such as decongestant nasal sprays and nasal dilator strips; however, these treatments do nothing to correct the deviation itself, and tend to be ineffective in more severe cases.

Consequently, surgical intervention is the only way to conclusively treat a deviated septum, and corrective septum surgery is one of the most common procedures that ENT surgeons and specialists perform. This surgical procedure is called a septoplasty, and it involves conservative reshaping and shaving of the bone and cartilage that keeps the septum rigid.

This may sound rather dramatic, but septoplasty can generally be performed under local anaesthetics, and it produces minimal swelling and post-surgical pain. You may be required to wear soft, plastic 'splints' in your nostrils for a few days or weeks after the surgery to prevent the temporarily weakened septum from being bent out of shape, but these splints are not uncomfortable and are generally placed too far into the nostrils to be visible to others.

Contact a doctor to learn more about nose operations like a septoplasty.