Cookies on the Bupa website

We use cookies to help us understand ease of use and relevance of content. This ensures that we can give you the best experience on our website. If you continue, we'll assume that you are happy to receive cookies for this purpose. Find out more about cookies

Continue

Septoplasty

Key points

  • Septoplasty is an operation to correct a bent (deviated) septum in your nose.
  • Your septum is the cartilage and bone that separates your nostrils inside your nose.
  • You normally go home on the same day of your septoplasty surgery.
  • You can have the operation under general or local anaesthesia.
  • It takes about six weeks to make a full recovery.

Featured FAQ

Question

Will I have a scar after my septoplasty?

Answer

It’s unlikely that you will have any scars following septoplasty, as no cuts are made in the skin on your face when the operation is done.

See all our FAQs on septoplasty

Septoplasty is an operation to correct a bent (deviated) septum in your nose. Your septum is the cartilage and bone that runs down the middle of your nose and separates your nostrils.

You will meet the surgeon carrying out your procedure to discuss your care. It may differ from what is described here as it will be designed to meet your individual needs.

About septoplasty

Septoplasty is an operation to straighten the septum in your nose if it’s bent to one side. This can happen following an injury or it can twist as it grows. Very few people have a completely straight septum, but if it is sufficiently bent, it can block one or both sides of your nose. You may be offered septoplasty to unblock your nose, to improve snoring or sometimes to help your surgeon reach your sinuses if you need sinus surgery.

Septoplasty won't usually change the way your nose looks. However, if your nose isn’t straight, it may be possible to have surgery to reshape it at the same time. Speak to your surgeon about your options.

What are the alternatives?

If your septum is bent, it won’t cause you any harm, so you may decide to leave it as it is. However, if your septum causes you problems and affects your day-to-day life, you may want to have it straightened. Nasal sprays and drops might help unblock your nose if it’s swollen or inflamed but the only way to straighten it is to have a septoplasty.

Preparing for septoplasty

Your surgeon will explain how to prepare for your septoplasty. For example, if you smoke, you will be asked to stop as smoking increases your risk of getting a chest and wound infection, which can slow your recovery.

Septoplasty is usually done as a day case, which means that you have the operation and go home the same day. However, some people need to stay in hospital overnight.

The operation is usually done under general anaesthesia, which means you will be asleep during the procedure. You can also have septoplasty done under local anaesthesia, which completely blocks pain from your nose and you will stay awake during the procedure. If you’re having the operation under local anaesthesia, you may be offered a sedative to help you relax.

If you're having a general anaesthetic, you will be asked to follow fasting instructions. This means not eating or drinking, typically for about six hours beforehand. However, it’s important to follow your anaesthetist’s advice.

At the hospital your nurse may check your heart rate and blood pressure, and test your urine.

Your surgeon will discuss with you what will happen before, during and after your procedure, and any pain you might have. This is your opportunity to understand what will happen, and you can help yourself by preparing questions to ask about the risks, benefits and any alternatives to the procedure. This will help you to be informed, so you can give your consent for the procedure to go ahead, which you may be asked to do by signing a consent form.

What happens during septoplasty

Septoplasty usually takes between 30 and 45 minutes, or longer if your operation is more complex.

Your surgeon will make a cut inside your nose and remove any bone or cartilage that is blocking it. He or she will then straighten your septum by moving it back into the middle of your nose. When everything is properly in place your surgeon will use stitches to hold it together.

Your surgeon may put dressings into your nostrils to help reduce any bleeding. He or she may also put small pieces of plastic called splints put inside your nose to prevent scar tissue from developing.

What to expect afterwards

You will need to rest until the effects of the anaesthetic have passed. You may need pain relief to help with any discomfort as the anaesthetic wears off.

After a local anaesthetic it may take several hours before the feeling comes back into your nose. Take special care not to bump or knock the area.

If you have dressings in your nose, you will usually need to keep them in overnight and your nurse or surgeon will take them out before you go home. If you have plastic splints in your nose, these will usually need to stay in place for about a week after your operation. You will probably need to return to the hospital to have these taken out.

You may not be able to breathe through your nose if you have dressing packs in, or if your nose is swollen. Breathe through your mouth for a few days until these are taken out and any swelling goes down.

The length of time your dissolvable stitches will take to disappear depends on what type you have. However, for this procedure, they should usually disappear in about six weeks.

Your nurse will give you some advice about caring for your healing wounds before you go home. You may be given a date for a follow-up appointment.

If you have septoplasty done under local anaesthesia, you will usually be able to go home when you feel ready. If you had general anaesthesia or sedation, you will need to arrange for someone to drive you home. Try to have a friend or relative stay with you for the first 24 hours after your procedure.

General anaesthesia and sedation temporarily affects your co-ordination and reasoning skills, so you must not drive, drink alcohol, operate machinery or sign legal documents for 24 hours afterwards. If you're in any doubt about driving, contact your motor insurer so that you're aware of their recommendations, and always follow your surgeon’s advice.

Recovering from septoplasty

It usually takes about six weeks to make a full recovery from septoplasty, but this varies between individuals, so it's important to follow your surgeon's advice.

If you need pain relief, you can take over-the-counter painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen. Always read the patient information that comes with your medicine and if you have any questions, ask your pharmacist for advice.

You may have some watery, blood-stained fluid coming from your nose for the first two weeks after your operation as well as some crusting as your nose heals – a salt-water rinse may help with this. Don’t blow your nose hard as it may cause bleeding. If you sneeze, try to do it with your mouth open to protect your nose.

You will need to breathe through your mouth for the first few days. This can cause your lips to dry out so use petroleum jelly or lip balm on your lips to stop them cracking.

Keep your head up as much as possible in the first 24 to 48 hours after your operation and sleep or rest in an upright position with several pillows.

Your nose may feel blocked or congested (as if you have a heavy cold) for about four to six weeks after your operation. Your surgeon may give you a nasal spray or nose drops to help with this.

It can take up to three months for your nose to get completely back to normal after septoplasty. While your nose is healing, stay away from dusty or smoky places.

Most people are able to return to work one or two weeks after the operation but follow your surgeon’s advice about returning to work and leisure activities. Don’t play any contact sports, such as rugby or football, for at least a month after your operation.

See your GP straight away if you develop:

  • heavy bleeding that doesn’t stop within 10 to 15 minutes
  • a blocked nose that gets worse
  • a raised temperature or fever
  • increasing pain

What are the risks?

As with every procedure, there are some risks associated with septoplasty. We have not included the chance of these happening as they are specific to you and differ for every person. Ask your surgeon to explain how these risks apply to you.

Side-effects

Side-effects are the unwanted but mostly temporary effects you may get after having the procedure. Side-effects of septoplasty include:

  • pain and discomfort in your nose, particularly at the front
  • a blocked nose, which can last for up to six weeks
  • blood-stained, watery fluid that comes from your nose
  • crusting in your nose

Complications

Complications are when problems occur during or after the procedure. The possible complications of any operation include an unexpected reaction to the anaesthetic or excessive bleeding.

The main complications of septoplasty are listed below.

  • You may have heavy bleeding from your nose after your operation. If this happens, it’s usually in the first few hours after the procedure or between five and 10 days afterwards. If you have heavy bleeding, your surgeon may need to put packing into your nose. You may also need another operation to stop the bleeding.
  • An infection in your nose is a possible complication, and it can be serious. If you have pain and an increasingly blocked nose, see your GP as soon as possible.
  • A hole in your septum is a possible problem after a septoplasty. This usually doesn’t cause any problems, but you may hear a whistling noise when you breathe in and out. You may need another operation to correct this.
  • A change in the shape of your nose is unusual, but if it does happen, you may need another operation to correct it.
  • You can get numbness in your top teeth if the nerve that supplies your teeth (which is near the septum) is bruised or damaged.

 

Produced by Rachael Mayfield-Blake, Bupa Heath Information Team, February 2013. 

For answers to frequently asked questions on this topic, see FAQs.

For sources and links to further information, see Resources.

Find out more about our health editors

Share with others


  • This information was published by Bupa's Health Information Team and is based on reputable sources of medical evidence. It has been reviewed by appropriate medical or clinical professionals. Photos are only for illustrative purposes and do not reflect every presentation of a condition. The content is intended only for general information and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional. For more details on how we produce our content and its sources, visit the about our health information page.

    Approved by Plain English Campaign The Information Standard memberHON Code

     

For life's ups and downs try Bupa Health Insurance

Musculoskeletal services

We offer a range of physiotherapy and sports medicine services.

Find out more