The nasal septum is a vertical divider made of cartilage and bone that separates the right and left air passages. If the septum is curved (deviated) due to normal development or an injury such as a nasal fracture, the air passages may be blocked on one side or both sides. Inside the air passages, structures called turbinates that provide humidification of the air we breathe. Turbinates may be enlarged due to the blocked airflow, worsening the problem. Surgery on the septum and turbinates may be needed to open the air passages. This type of surgery may be covered by health insurance. Note that allergies that cause turbinate enlargement should be treated with medication, not surgery.

Types of procedures

  • Septoplasty: This involves adjustments made to the septum to straighten it.
  • Submucous resection (SMR) of the septum: This approach involves the removing portions of the septum.
  • Spreader grafts: Cartilage grafts are used to widen the airway.
  • Turbinate outfracture: This involves compressing the turbinates outward to open the airway.

Procedure details

  • Surgery on the septum may be performed during a rhinoplasty or as a standalone procedure
  • On rare occasions, an internal splint is placed that will be removed in 1-2 weeks
  • It will be difficult to breathe through the nose for 1-2 weeks after surgery until internal swelling goes down
  • Saline nose drops or gels can help speed the healing
  • Patients may report improved sleep and sense of taste after successful septal surgery

Risks & Benefits

Septoplasty is a very safe procedure, accompanied by mild bleeding for a day or two, and stuffiness that may last 1-2 weeks. It is important not to exercise for the first 2 weeks to prevent additional nasal bleeding or swelling. If there are severe blockages, it may be possible to improve breathing but still have some residual blockage after surgery. Septoplasty to improve breathing may not improve the shape of the nose on the outside. If there is an external curvature of the septum or tip, additional rhinoplasty planning may need to be part of your procedure as well.

Restoring the ability to breathe through the nose is a life changing event for most patients.

Frequently Asked Questions

Will septoplasty be covered by my insurance?

Septoplasty may be covered if nonsurgical causes of nasal airway obstruction are ruled out, such as allergies, or if medical therapy with nasal decongestants has failed. Some insurance companies will ask for a CT scan to document the deviated septum. A trauma to the nose, such as nasal fracture, may induce airway obstruction. That is usually covered by insurance.