The nasal septum is the thin wall of cartilage and bone that separates the nostrils. Septoplasty is a nasal surgery done to correct a deviated septum. When the septum is deviated, it is off-center, which can cause breathing problems, frequent sinus infections, and other complications. The board-certified ENTs at Penn Medicine Becker ENT & Allergy offer this effective and permanent solution to their patients who are good candidates.
This article will provide a detailed day-by-day recovery timeline for patients who are interested in septoplasty, covering the entire recovery process from preparation for surgery to long-term recovery and tips.
Overview of Septoplasty Surgery
Septoplasty surgery is normally an outpatient procedure performed under general anesthesia. However, local anesthesia might be used, depending on the circumstances. The procedure typically takes one to two hours and involves making an incision inside the nostril to access the septum. The surgeon will then reshape the deviated portions of the septum, straightening it to improve airflow and alleviate symptoms. Sometimes the entire septum is removed and then rebuilt and re-implanted.
After the surgery, the surgeon may insert splints or dissolvable sutures inside the nostrils to help maintain the new shape of the septum and promote healing within the surgical site. The patient will then be taken to a recovery room to be monitored as the anesthesia wears off.
Preparing for Surgery
Before undergoing septoplasty surgery, patients should follow their surgeon’s pre-operative instructions to ensure a smooth and successful procedure. These instructions may include:
- Medical evaluation: A thorough medical evaluation, including a physical examination and medical history, will be conducted to determine if the patient is a suitable candidate for septoplasty surgery.
- Medications: Patients may be asked to stop taking certain medications, such as aspirin, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and blood thinners, in the few weeks leading up to the surgery to minimize the risk of bleeding complications.
- Smoking: Patients who smoke should quit at least two weeks before surgery, as smoking can impair the healing process and increase the risk of complications.
- Fasting: Patients will be instructed to stop eating and drinking for a specified period before surgery, usually around eight hours, to reduce the risk of complications related to anesthesia.
- Arranging transportation and post-operative care: Patients should arrange for a friend or family member to drive them home after the surgery and stay with them for at least 24 hours, as they may be groggy and disoriented from the anesthesia.
Not all patients with a deviated septum are good candidates for this surgical procedure. The ideal candidate also has a persistent nasal blockage and has had little response to medical treatments. Penn Medicine Becker ENT & Allergy can determine whether you are a good candidate for this surgical procedure.
Immediately After Surgery
Once the anesthesia wears off, patients may experience some discomfort, such as pain, swelling, and congestion in the nasal area. To help manage these symptoms, the surgeon may prescribe pain medication and recommend using a saline nasal spray to keep the nasal passages moist and clean.
Patients should also follow these post-operative care instructions:
- Rest: It is essential to rest and avoid strenuous activities for the first few days after surgery to promote healing and minimize the risk of complications.
- Elevate the head: Keeping the head elevated, especially during sleep, can help reduce swelling and bleeding in the nasal area.
- Avoid blowing the nose: Patients should avoid blowing their nose for at least one week after surgery to prevent dislodging the splints or sutures and disrupting the healing process.
- Cold compresses: Applying cold compresses to the face can help alleviate swelling and discomfort.
- Follow-up appointments: Patients should attend all follow-up appointments with their surgeon to monitor their progress and address any concerns or complications that may arise during the recovery process.
After the surgery, there are no restrictions on eating or bathing. However, patients are asked to refrain from drinking alcohol, as this will impede healing.
Day One Post-Surgery
On the first day after septoplasty surgery, patients may continue to experience some discomfort, swelling, and nasal congestion. It is essential to follow the post-operative care instructions provided by the surgeon and take any prescribed pain medication as needed.
During the first 24 hours, patients should:
- Rest: Get plenty of rest and avoid any strenuous activities to promote healing.
- Elevate the head: Continue to keep the head elevated, even when sleeping, to help reduce swelling and bleeding in the nasal area.
- Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated and help flush out any anesthesia remaining in the body.
- Avoid nose-blowing: Refrain from blowing the nose to prevent dislodging the splints or sutures and disrupting the healing process.
- Change nasal dressings: If a dressing was placed under the nose, change it as instructed; it is normal to have mild bloody drainage for the first 24 to 72 hours.
Days Two Through Seven Post-Surgery
During the first week after septoplasty surgery, patients should continue to follow their surgeon’s post-operative care instructions and attend the scheduled follow-up appointments. It is normal to experience some swelling, bruising, and nasal congestion during this time, but these symptoms should gradually improve as the healing process progresses.
During days two through seven, patients should:
- Gradually resume normal activities: As they begin to feel better, patients can slowly start to resume their daily activities, but should still avoid any strenuous exercise or heavy lifting.
- Continue using saline nasal spray: Use the saline nasal spray as prescribed by the surgeon to keep the nasal passages moist and clean.
- Avoid nose-blowing: Continue to refrain from blowing the nose to prevent disrupting the healing process.
- Monitor for signs of infection: Watch for any signs of infection, such as increased pain, redness, swelling, or discharge, and contact the surgeon if you notice any of these symptoms.
- Attend follow-up appointments: Attend any scheduled follow-up appointments with the surgeon to have the splints or sutures removed, and to monitor the progress of the healing process. Many surgeons have stopped using nasal packing for this procedure.
During this first week, patients may notice an improvement in their breathing as the swelling subsides and the nasal passages begin to clear. However, it is important to remember that the healing process is ongoing and that it may take several weeks or months for the full benefits of the surgery to become apparent.
Recovery Weeks Two Through Six Post-Surgery
During weeks two through six post-surgery, patients will continue to see improvements in their breathing and a reduction in swelling and bruising.
During this period, patients should:
- Gradually increase activity levels: As the healing process continues, patients can slowly increase their activity levels, including light exercise, but should still avoid heavy lifting or contact sports.
- Maintain nasal hygiene: Continue using the saline nasal spray as prescribed and avoid nose-blowing to prevent complications.
- Monitor for signs of complications: Be aware of any unusual symptoms, such as increased pain, bleeding, or difficulty breathing, and contact the surgeon if these occur.
- Follow a healthy diet: If your normal diet isn’t balanced, consider switching to a diet rich in vitamins and minerals that can help support the healing process and overall health.
Recovery Weeks Seven Through Twelve Post-Surgery
By weeks seven through twelve, most patients will have experienced significant improvements in their breathing and overall nasal function. However, it is important to remember that residual swelling may persist.
During this period, patients should:
- Resume regular activities: Patients are normally given approval by their surgeons to return to their normal exercise routines during this time.
- Attend follow-up appointments: Continue attending any scheduled follow-up appointments to ensure proper healing and address any concerns with the surgeon.
- Be patient: Although most patients will see significant improvements by this stage, it is important to remember that healing might take many months. Be patient and allow the body to fully recover.
Longer-Term Recovery and Tips for Managing Soreness
In the months following septoplasty surgery, patients should continue to see improvements in their nasal function and overall quality of life. To manage any residual soreness or discomfort, consider the following tips:
- Use over-the-counter pain relievers: If necessary, use over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, to manage any lingering discomfort. Always consult with the surgeon before taking any medications.
- Apply warm or cold compresses: Applying a warm or cold compress to the nasal area can help alleviate discomfort and reduce any residual swelling.
- Practice good nasal hygiene: Continue to maintain good nasal hygiene by using saline nasal spray and avoiding nose-blowing.
- Stay hydrated: Drinking plenty of water can help keep the nasal passages moist and reduce the risk of irritation.
- Avoid irritants: Steer clear of environmental irritants, such as smoke, dust, and allergens, which can cause inflammation and exacerbate soreness.
Remember to consult with the surgeon if any concerns or complications arise during the recovery process. With patience and proper medical care, patients can expect to enjoy the full benefits of septoplasty surgery and improved nasal function in the long term.
If you’re looking for a qualified and experienced ENT specialist to help with your septoplasty surgery, consider Becker ENT & Allergy. With their team of knowledgeable and caring professionals, you can be sure that you will have an optimal recovery experience. Contact Becker ENT & Allergy today to learn more about how they can help make your septoplasty surgery a success!