The nasal septum is the partition that separates the right and left nasal cavities. The front part of this wall is made of cartilage. A thin, bony plate forms the back part. It is covered with a mucous membrane. This area can sometimes be malformed or become injured. When either of these problems is present, a deviated septum (one part of the nasal cavity is smaller than the other) may result. If the septum deviates into one or both nasal cavities it can cause breathing difficulty, block the normal flow of mucous from the sinuses when a person has a cold, and prevent proper drainage during a sinus infection. Deviated septum is relatively common but rarely causes complications. A septoplasty is a form of plastic surgery used to straighten the nasal septum.
A septoplasty can be performed under general anesthesia, in which the person is put to sleep for the procedure. It may also be done under local anesthesia, with numbing only of the area involved in the surgery. An incision is made in the front of the septum. The cartilage and bony structures beneath are exposed. Crooked portions of the septal bone and cartilage are then removed. To hold the straightened septum in place, small plastic sheets, splints, or packing may be used.
After surgery, the person is taken to the surgery recovery room until the anesthesia wears off. The nose may have packing in place. The person may be anxious at first, and feel he or she is not getting enough air. The individual will be instructed to breathe through his or her mouth. Medication will be available to decrease the discomfort and nausea. The person will be taken to the recovery room once the anesthesia has worn off. Often, the individual may go home the same day. An antibiotic may be given to prevent infections.