Our septum is the partition inside our nose that separates the two nostrils. It is made up of cartilage and bony parts. Septoplasty is the operation on the septum.
Why have operation
The most common reason for septoplasty is a bent or crooked septum, causing blocked nose and difficulty breathing through the nose. A bent septum can be a result of trauma to the nose, but not necessarily so. There are many people who are born with a bent septum giving rise to nasal breathing difficulties later in life.
How is the operation done
The operation is carried out under general anaesthetic (patient will be put to sleep), and takes around 60-90 minutes depending on the complexity of the problem. A cut is made inside the nose just behind the columella (the central part between the nostril entrance), therefore no external scars are created. Prominent spurs could be shaved off and removed, bent portions released and realigned. Absorbable stitches are used to close the incision site. There might or might not be nasal packs inserted, depending on the degree of bleeding during the operation. If nasal packs are used, they are of the dissolvable type and will disintegrate fairly quickly.
Does it hurt
Septoplasty is not associated with significant pain. Some patient experience pain and discomfort at the edge of the inside of the nose, where the cut is made. This should improve with time. Simple painkillers is normally adequate.
After the operation
You will be observed for a few hours to make sure you have recovered from the anaesthetic and that no excessive bleeding has occurred. The majority of the patients are able to go home on the same day. You will experience nasal congestion type symptoms for the next few weeks while the inside of the nose heals. It is also not uncommon to see some blood- stained mucus for the next few days. As long as there is no continual bleeding, this is not to be alarmed. It is advisable to perform nasal douching (rinsing the nose with salt water using a syringe, or a sinus washout bottle) to keep the nasal cavities clean.
You should experience gradual improvement of your nasal airway when the internal swelling subsides with time. This can take as long as 3-6 months in some cases.
How long do I have to be off work
It is generally advisable to take one to two weeks off work for convalescence after the operation, to minimise the risk of any nose bleeds. Physical activities and exercise should be refrained during this period and perhaps for the following 4-6 weeks.
The procedure can cause numbness to the nasal tip, top lip and front 2 teeth. Nasal operations carry a risk of nose bleeds. Occasionally the blood can pool between the covering layers of the septum, forming a haematoma and / or causing infection. This can affect the healing process of the septum, resulting in septal perforation (a hole formed within the septum). The majority of septal perforations go unnoticed by patients; however a small hole can cause whistling when breathing, and larger holes can cause crusting.
Is there any alternative treatment
If the cause of your nasal blockage is due to a crooked septum, then only an operation can correct this deformity. However in many cases where rhinitis is also present, this can be treated with nasal sprays.