Deviated Septum Surgery and Turbinectomy (Septoplasty, Nasal Airway Surgery, Surgical Instructions)

  • Medical Author:

    Dr. Shah obtained his BA/MD from Boston University and completed his Otolaryngology residency at Tufts University followed by a fellowship in Pediatric Otolaryngology at Children's Hospital Boston at Harvard University. After fellowship, he joined the faculty of Children's National Medical Center in 2006. Dr. Shah is an active clinical researcher and has received numerous awards for his research.

  • Medical Editor: Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

Deviated Septum Symptoms

What is a deviated septum?

A deviated septum is a condition in which the nasal septum -- the bone and cartilage that divide the nasal cavity of the nose in half -- is significantly off center, or crooked, making breathing difficult. Most people have some sort of imbalance in the size of their breathing passages. In fact, estimates indicate that 80% of people, most unknowingly, have some sort of misalignment to their nasal septum. Only the more severe imbalances cause significant breathing problems and require treatment.

Deviated Septum Causes

Some people are born with a deviated septum. Other people develop a deviated septum after injury or trauma to the nose.

Deviated Septum Symptoms

The most common symptom of a deviated septum is nasal congestion, with one side of the nose being more congested than the other, along with difficulty breathing. Recurrent or repeated sinus infections can also be a sign of a deviated septum. Other symptoms include frequent...

Deviated septum surgery (septoplasty) and turbinectomy facts

  • Deviated septum surgery (septoplasty) is surgery to correct a deformity in the nasal septum. Turbinectomy or turbinoplasty is the surgical reduction or removal of an enlarged turbinate (nasal tissue) inside the nose. Both surgeries are done mainly to improve airflow or improve sinus drainage but may have other purposes such as nosebleed control.
  • There are risks and complications for all surgeries; those for deviated septum and turbinate surgeries are infrequent, but include the following:
    • nasal obstruction,
    • bleeding,
    • chronic nasal drainage,
    • eye damage (rare),
    • brain fluid leak or infection (rare),
    • numbness of facial structures,
    • septal perforation,
    • alteration of sense of smell or taste, and
    • failure to resolve any associated nasal or sinus problem.
  • Prior to undergoing these surgical procedures, the patient needs to obtain instructions from their doctors (surgeon and anesthesiologist) in regard to preparing for the surgical procedure (for example, what medications to stop taking prior to surgery, when the last meals or drinks may be consumed prior to surgery).
  • Deviated septum surgery and turbinate surgery last approximately an hour, and the patient is closely monitored because they usually will be under general anesthesia. Complications rarely occur, and the patient usually can go home the same day as the surgery.
  • After surgery, the patient will need someone to transport the them home. To avoid nose bleeding, it is important for the patient to keep their head elevated, and to avoid any straining during bowel movements or exercise. Some mild swelling of the face and nose may occur but is not common, and ice packs can help reduce this swelling (a bag of frozen peas or corn will easily conform to the face, and may provide the most comfort).
  • Following the doctor's instructions in regard to surgery after-care is very important, and the success of the surgery may depend on this surgery after-care. Patients will be instructed about nasal packing, nasal packing removal, necessary follow-up examinations, and the importance of the use of nasal irrigation to reduce nasal crusting or scab formation. The surgical site will be very sensitive to normal activity such as lifting objects, wearing glasses, bending over, nasal congestion, and other activities, thus, theses situations should be avoided if possible.
  • If a patient experiences a sudden increase in nose bleeding, a fever greater than 101.5 F (38.6 C), persistent sharp pain, or increased swelling after surgery, they should contact their surgeon immediately.

Deviated septum surgery (septoplasty) and turbinectomy/turbinoplasty (nasal airway surgery instructions): Note from the doctor

The following information is provided to help patients and their families prepare for deviated septum surgery (septoplasty) and turbinectomy (nasal airway surgery), and to understand more clearly the associated benefits, risks, and complications. Patients are encouraged to ask their doctor any questions or concerns to help better understand these procedures. Nasal airway surgery is almost always performed through the nostrils without the need for external incisions.

In following sections, instructions are designed to help individuals recover from nasal airway surgery as easily as possible. Taking care of oneself can prevent complications. The doctor that performs the surgery will be happy to answer any related questions about these procedures.

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