The slightest physical deformity in the nasal area can cause problems that affect a person's quality of life. Particularly vulnerable to a blow or injury is the "septum." The two openings to the nostrils that are separated by a thin wall of bone and cartilage. Sometimes, the septum simply doesn't develop properly. In either case the septum becomes bent or deviated from its normal position and that, in turn, may cause difficulties in other nasal areas such as the sinuses and turbinates.
When the bone and cartilage in the nose becomes misaligned, air flow may be partially blocked on one side. This causes increased air flow on the opposite side. The imbalanced flow of air irritates the mucous membranes that line the inner surface of the nose as well as the turbinates, curved bones in the nasal passage that help lubricate the nose and keep it clean. The irritation causes both the membranes and the turbinates to redden and swell, resulting in blockage on both sides of the nose. The swelling shuts off the openings to the sinus cavities, preventing proper drainage. A variety of problems may ensue, including some or all of the following:
The doctor will recommend one or more surgical procedures to relieve the discomfort. The procedures listed below will vary according to the individual problems of the patient:
Surgery is usually performed on an out-patient basis although some procedures may require a brief stay in the hospital. Anesthesia may range from heavy sedation to deep sleep under general anesthesia. In either case, the patient will need someone to drive him or her home. If only the septum is straightened, very little swelling or bruising should occur. If refracturing is necessary, some bruising and swelling may last up to several weeks.
As with any surgery there are some risks. Excessive bleeding may occur and infection must always be guarded against, although it actually happens in less than one percent of the cases. Other risks include formation of abnormal scar tissue and perforated septum.
The healing process may require several weeks for everything to heal properly, so caution must be exercised to reduce the likelihood of a blow or trauma to the nose. It is common for some symptoms that were present before surgery to continue for variable amounts of time. Relief usually comes from a saline spray administered several times a day or other medication. Symptoms may remain, in fact, until healing is completed, which can take several months.
Nasal surgery is not a cure all, especially if a person also has allergies, but it can be instrumental in correcting breathing and sinus problems.