A deviated septum occurs when the thin wall between your nostrils is twisted to one side. It's actually pretty common in a lot of people. When a deviated septum is severe, it can block one side of your nose and reduce airflow, causing difficulty breathing. Treatment of a severely deviated septum may include medications to reduce the swelling or nasal dilators that help open the nasal passages. When medications don't work, you may need surgery to correct the septum and help normalize breathing.
Deviated Septum Surgery or a "septoplasty", unless major complications arise, is a fairly common outpatient procedure that is done in a hospital, clinic, or surgery center. The surgery is minimally invasive meaning no external incisions are made and any stitches put in will dissolve by themselves within a few days.
It's around a 30-90 minute operation and once the anesthesia has worn off, most patients can go home the same day (someone else will need to drive them home.) After you get home you can expect to experience some pain and discomfort which the doctor may tell you to take over the counter pain relief for.
As with most surgery, there will be a recovery period where you may experience pain, swelling, and other symptoms related to the procedure. The average recovery time for a septoplasty is 7-10 days. By that point, the nose should be basically healed but care should be taken not to do any strenuous activity such as exercise, flying\traveling, blowing your nose, heavy lifting, or anything else that might cause injury to the nose, until at least 3 weeks after the surgery.
If you smoke you should stop before the procedure. Smoking can cause increased risks during the procedure and slow down the healing process.
There are some risks involved in the procedure such as excessive bleeding, clotted blood that needs to be drained, and numbness in the nose or lip area. It is uncommon but, in some cases, the symptoms of nasal obstruction continue or return even after the procedure and additional surgery may be required. In most cases, it will not change the nose (other than the position of the septum) or the shape of the nose.
To decrease the chances of bleeding and swelling after the procedure, get plenty of rest and make sure to keep your head elevated when you're sleeping. Wear clothing that is loose in the front to avoid causing harm when putting on and taking off your clothes.
Some people may experience frequent headaches in the weeks following the procedure. The reason for that is, during the surgery the when the surgeon opens your nose, the cells of your nose will see it as an attack. This can cause the cells in the nose to release certain chemicals which can cause severe inflammation.
Because the inflammation is in the region of your nose and close to your head, it can cause you to experience a lot of headaches. The inflammation of your tissue will gradually lessen and after a few weeks, they will be back to normal.
If all goes well and there are no complications or major pain and depending on your line of work, your doctor will probably give you the ok to return to work as soon as a week after the surgery. Working can help the healing process by getting back into routine and keeping your mind occupied.
People who have more strenuous and physically demanding jobs and can expect an "ok" from their doctor to go back to work 2-4 weeks after the surgery, assuming that the healing process is going smoothly.
There are a few ways to speed up the healing process and ensure a smooth and successful recovery. When you get home, try to rest as much as possible with your head elevated. Try having someone around for the first few days to help you move around. You will have lost blood and therefore may feel weak and unsteady on your feet.
If you experience constipation, take care not to strain when using the bathroom and ask your doctor to prescribe you a laxative or stool softener. Avoid alcohol and smoking, even second-hand smoke, as it can cause irritation and even an infection. Be sure to only resume wearing contacts once any swelling has gone away.
Rinsing your nose with a saline spray (once any packing has been removed) can help prevent any crusting that may form in the nose as the skin heals. It helps prevent healing and protect against any infection that might try to set in. Your doctor will probably also instruct you to apply vaseline on a q-tip to soften and crusting and promote healing.
Peroxide is also another form of lubrication you can use. Take care not to try and remove the dissolvable stitches, they will come out on their own over the next few weeks.
If you have any additional surgeries together with your septoplasty procedure such as a rhinoplasty, the recovery time and healing process will be a little bit longer. The procedure where a septoplasty and a rhinoplasty are done simultaneously is called a septorhinoplasty.
Reasons that you may need a septorhinoplasty are if your nose is mishappened do to an injury that also caused your septum to deviate or if you are getting a septoplasty and you don't like the look of your nose and want to have the surgeries done together. Both rhinoplasty and septoplasty procedures make a small incision inside the nose while a rhinoplasty may require a small external incision as well.
After a septorhinoplasty, cold compresses must be applied intermittently for 48 hours to reduce inflammation. Nasal drainage is normal for at least 72 hours post-procedure and bruising is normal and should go away within 10-14 days. Strenuous exercise should be avoided for 3 weeks at the least and most patients can go back to work within 7-10 days. Healing can take as long as one year, but the scar tissue will become stronger and less red after 6 months.