What is Septoplasty?
Septoplasty is surgery to straighten the septum. After a general or local anesthesia is given, an incision is made inside the nose, on one side of the septum. The surgeon, working through this incision, removes or shapes the parts of the cartilage causing the blockage.
There are variations of this operation. Sometimes the parts are removed and discarded. Other times they are straightened and replaced. The goal is most often to improve breathing through the nose but it can also prevent sinus infections. Sometimes a septoplasty is done at the same time as a procedure to straighten or correct the appearance of the nose (septorhinoplasty).
What is the Septum?
The septum is the part of the nose that divides the nasal chamber in two parts. It is made up of bone and cartilage.
Septoplasty Home Care
▪ Expect nasal discharge.
▪ You will need to change the small gauze dressing under your nose when it
becomes soiled. Your nurse will show you how to do this before you go home.
▪ At first, nasal drainage will be bloody. It will slowly change to a pink-yellow
color by the next day.
▪ Do not hit or move any part of your nose or packing.
▪ Do not use a straw to drink fluids. This can create suction in the back of your
throat, which could cause a higher risk of bleeding or swelling.
▪ You will be breathing through your mouth until the swelling is gone. This may
cause some dryness and soreness of your mouth and throat. Using a
humidifier or vaporizer along with brushing your teeth may provide comfort.
▪ Do not blow your nose. After one week, you may blow your nose very
gently, especially in the shower.
▪ Try not to sniff.
▪ Do not hold back a sneeze. Sneeze with your mouth open.
▪ Expect crusting in your nose for 3-6 weeks while the incision is healing.
▪ Expect your nose to be stuffy. This is caused by swelling that will decrease
over the next few weeks.
▪ You may feel sick to your stomach. This may be due to drainage you
swallowed during surgery. This drainage may cause you to vomit. If you do
vomit it may be bloody.
▪ You can eat or drink whatever you like, although soft foods are best. Do not
drink alcohol while you are using pain medicine.
Nasal Packing/Nasal Splint
During surgery your doctor may insert packing in both sides of your nose to hold the septum in place. Packing also reduces bleeding and the chance of scarring inside the nose. A thin plastic splint maybe used inside the nose to help straighten the septum. This can be seen if your head is tipped back.
Nasal Packing/Splint removal
If nasal packing is used, it will be removed in the ENT Clinic in 1-2 days.
You may take pain medicine 30 minutes before your clinic visit, only if someone is able to drive you to the clinic. This will make packing removal more comfortable.
After the Nasal Packing/Splint is removed
▪ Expect some mild blood tinged drainage. This will slowly lessen over the next
▪ You must wait until after the nasal packing/splint is removed before very
gently blowing your nose.
Relief for Nasal Congestion
▪ Keep your head 30° above your heart for the next few weeks. Do this by
sleeping on 2-3 pillows.
▪ Do not use decongestants or antihistamines unless your doctor tells you to.
▪ Do not pick the inside of your nose.
▪ Your doctor may prescribe a nasal saline (salt water) spray to loosen crusting
and make it feel better.
Cold packs to the nose
▪ Cold packs can be used to lessen nasal drainage, reduce swelling, and ease
pain. They work best if used during the first 24-48 hours.
▪ You may place frozen peas or corn in a Ziploc bag for a cold pack. Place the
bag across your eyes and nasal bridge. Change the packs every hour for the
first 24 hours. After 24 hours, apply packs for 20 minutes out of the hour for
the next 24 hours.
▪ You may wring out a wash cloth which has been soaked in ice water. Place it
over your nose and eyes. Change it every 20 minutes as needed.
For the first week
▪ Clean the nasal incision with a Q-tip soaked with hydrogen peroxide. Use a
rolling motion along the length of the incision and allow to dry.
▪ Roll a thin layer of antibiotic ointment over the incision.
▪ Clean and apply ointment to the incision three times per day.
▪ Discomfort following septoplasty varies from person to person. You will be
given pain medicine.
▪ Pain medicine works best if taken at the onset of pain.
▪ Do not take aspirin or anti-inflammatory pain medicine, such as ibuprofen,
before or after surgery, it can cause bleeding.
For 1 week, you can engage in light activity only.
▪ No aerobics, jogging or swimming.
▪ You may drive a car only if you are not taking pain medicine.
▪ No lifting more than 25 pounds.
▪ If your job requires strenuous activity, you should not work for at least 5-7
▪ Stay away from stressful activities and events.
▪ After 1 week, as you are feeling better, you can go back to your normal
▪ Do not shower in hot water.
When to call the Doctor
Call your doctor if you have
▪ Excessive bleeding while the packing is in place.
▪ Nasal packing that drops into your throat causing discomfort.
▪ If the nasal packing causes choking call 911. If you can’t reach your
doctor, go to the local emergency room.
▪ Nasal bleeding after the packing is removed.
▪ If your temperature is 101° F or higher (taken by mouth).
If you have any questions or problems once you are home, please call.
▪ Monday through Friday 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. call the Otolaryngology (ENT)
Clinic at (608) 263-6190.
▪ Evening or weekends, the clinic number will give you the paging operator.
Ask for the ENT doctor on call. Leave your name and phone number with the
area code. The doctor will call you back.
▪ If outside the Madison area, call toll free at 1-800-323-8942.
The information provided should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
Last Updated: 09/18/2013
Copyright © 09/16/2013 University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#4491
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