The two airways in the nose are divided by a section of cartilage and bone called the ‘nasal septum’. The nasal septum can sometimes be ‘deviated’, that is, not exactly in the centre of the nose. Where this is a small deviation this is generally not a problem (many people have a slightly deviated septum with no ill effects), but where it is significantly deviated it can cause problems due to the restricted airflow in the narrower airway. Common symptoms are a blocked or runny nose, and/or frequent nosebleeds caused by drying of the lining of the nose in the larger airway.
A deviated septum can also cause people to breathe more through the mouth than through the nose, which can make sufferers more prone to infection. This is because air breathed through the nose is warmed and humidified and small particles are filtered out, whereas air breathed through the mouth enters directly into the throat and lungs, increasing the possibility of infection.
The procedure to correct a deviated septum is referred to as ‘septoplasty’, which derives from the Latin word ‘septum’ which means ‘wall’.
During the septoplasty procedure the septum is repositioned into the middle of the nasal cavity. Surgery is carried out under either a general or local anaesthetic (depending on how complex the procedure is) and generally does not take longer than one hour. You can normally go home on the same day as the operation. Full recovery takes a few weeks, with generally no external indication of surgery, unless other surgery (for example rhinoplasty) has been carried out during the septoplasty procedure.
You may be advised to avoid strenuous activity after the procedure, avoid blowing your nose and make sure your head is raised while you are asleep. It is also advisable to avoid any contact with your nose for a short while, for example avoid wearing any clothing that needs to be pulled over your head.