Whether you were born with a deviated septum or have one as a result of a trauma or injury to the face, the decision to repair the septum through surgery can be made easier following a consultation with a facial plastic surgeon.

Signs and symptoms of a deviated septum

Made up of cartilage and bone, the nasal septum is what separates your left and right nose cavities and is covered on either side by a type of tissue known as mucosa. When the septum is bent, off-center or has an irregular shape, it is called a deviated septum.

“Patients with a deviated septum may have alterations to the form or function of their nose,” says Washington University facial plastic surgeon Dr. John Chi. “They can have trouble breathing through their nose or may have a diminished sense of smell.”

The nasal obstruction may only affect one side or both sides of the nose. It may also appear to be deviated externally or may appear collapsed.

“The septum can be thought of as the center beam that holds the roof of the nose up and out,” Dr. Chi explains. “If this septum is weak, damaged or deviated, then the nose may collapse.”

There are many people who have small defects in their septum that may not have a negative impact on their breathing and other functions of their nose. Others have symptoms such as trouble breathing through their nose caused by structural issues that make them ideally suited for repair. 

Consultation is a critical first step

Dr. Chi, and his colleagues from the Washington University Facial Plastic Surgery Center, including Dr. Gregory Branham and Dr. Emily Spataro, always begin discussions about the treatment of a deviated septum with a consultation to better understand each patient’s unique needs.

“We elicit a detailed history of prior medical care, as well as discuss the patient’s goals for treatment. We focus on a patient-centered approach that individualizes the care plan for each patient,” Dr. Spataro says. “If patients have cosmetic concerns that they would like to address at the time of surgery, then we discuss these goals at the consultation.” 

Treatment options

Septoplasty is a surgery to correct a deviated septum and may help improve a person’s quality of life by helping them breathe easier.

“If the primary structural problem is the septum, then only septoplasty is necessary,” Dr. Branham says. “Often, the nasal bones and cartilages are also contributing to the functional or cosmetic problem. If that is the case, then a rhinoplasty is also necessary.”

Rhinoplasty is a procedure that is frequently performed in conjunction with septoplasty.

“Unlike septoplasty that changes the internal structure, rhinoplasty alters the external structural framework of the nose (bones or cartilages),” Dr. Branham explains. “If the septum is the center beam, then the nasal bones and cartilages are the roof of the nose.

“Patients frequently have rhinoplasty to address a structural problem that impacts breathing or to change their nasal appearance. Because of the nose’s central location in the face, rhinoplasty can have a dramatic impact on a patient’s appearance,” Dr. Branham adds.

What to expect

In most cases, surgery to correct a deviated septum is an outpatient procedure. Patients who undergo septoplasty can expect a fairly short recovery with downtime after surgery of usually a few days to a week.

There are some patients who may have sutures that are removed at one week after surgery. They may also experience nasal congestion and drainage after surgery for a few weeks as the tissues heal. 

Patients will also find that most insurance plans cover functional nasal surgery for breathing improvement. However, every plan is different. 

“In our practice, meeting our patients’ cosmetic and breathing goals is always our top priority,” Dr. Chi says.

For more information or to schedule a consultation about treatment options for a deviated septum with the physicians at the Facial Plastic Surgery Center, call 314-996-3880 or click here.