Can Rhinoplasty Correct A Deviated Septum?
In the past, many celebrities like Jennifer Anniston have cited the need to correct a breathing problem as the reason for getting a nose job. The underlying issue, a deviated septum, is a narrowing of the nasal passage which can make breathing difficult. Specifically, a deviated septum stems from the cartilage and/or bone in the area between the nostrils being crooked or off-center.
Depending on the degree of misalignment, a deviated septum can range from being a minor inconvenience to severe enough to cause major breathing problems. In fact, it is estimated that nearly 80% of all people have some degree of misalignment, and most don’t even know it.
So it only makes sense that cosmetic nose surgery (i.e. rhinoplasty) would automatically correct issues stemming from a deviated septum, right? Wrong…
Septoplasty vs. Rhinoplasty
In order to correct a deviated septum, a completely different surgical procedure called septoplasty is required. This procedure repositions and/or removes bone and cartilage from the space between the nostrils to correct misalignment and restore breathing. Depending on the extent of the procedure, internal splints or (rarely) soft packing material may need to be inserted into the nose to stabilize the septum as it heals.
Rhinoplasty is a very different procedure that is performed to alter the shape and size of the nose. During rhinoplasty, incisions are made inside the nostrils. Sometimes, a tiny, inconspicuous incision is also made across the columella (the bit of skin that separates the nostrils). When this columella incision is made, the procedure is referred to as external or “open”, rhinoplasty; when there is no columellar incision, the procedure is called “endonasal”, or “closed”, rhinoplasty (learn more about open vs. closed rhinoplasty techniques). The soft tissues of the nose are separated from the underlying cartilage and bone, and then the cartilage and bone are reshaped as needed.
Like rhinoplasty, septoplasty can be performed in an outpatient setting under local or general anesthesia. The procedure usually takes between 1-2 hours and most patients heal within a week or two.
Septoplasty is considered a medically necessary procedure, meaning that many medical insurance policies will provide coverage for the procedure. This is in contrast to rhinoplasty, which is considered to be a cosmetic (or aesthetic) procedure that is done solely to enhance the appearance of the nose.
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Septorhinoplasty: Best of Both Worlds
While rhinoplasty does not correct a deviated septum, it can be combined with septoplasty. The combination of the two procedures is commonly called a septorhinoplasty. By combining these surgeries patients realize both enhanced breathing and an enhanced appearance of their nose. Undergoing both procedures at the same time makes sense as patients can realize cost savings, as expenses relating to facility costs, surgeon fees, and anesthesia is split between both procedures (with insurance covering septoplasty).
Another benefit is that the addition of septoplasty to a rhinoplasty procedure does not extend the required recovery time for a patient. Within 2 weeks of undergoing a septorhinoplasty procedure most patients are able to resume normal physical activity.
Functional Rhinoplasty: A New Concept in Nasal Surgery
The distinction between septoplasty and rhinoplasty is sometimes blurred when the nose is crooked or stenotic, so it does not look right and does not work well. In these cases functional rhinoplasty is required. The surgeon needs to straighten the nose, open the airways and straighten the septum. In a crooked nose, the bridge of the nose is the top of the septum. If it is crooked, the septum cannot be straightened without also straightening the nose.
To complicate things further, sometimes the septum is straight, but the airways are narrow and breathing is obstructed. In these cases, the narrowing is usually from stenosis of the internal and/or external nasal valves. Opening the nasal valves, called nasal valve surgery, must be performed, often by adding stabilizing grafts from the patient’s septum, ear or, in severe cases, rib. This also falls under the concept of functional rhinoplasty.
Today’s rhinoplasty expert is skilled at correctly diagnosing what the underlying problems are and knows what will work to correct them. Few patients can accurately determine what exactly is needed to achieve their cosmetic and functional goals. A thorough examination of the outside and inside of the nose, followed by setting realistic goals for surgery, sets the stage for gratifying results that lead to high patient satisfaction.
Are you currently experiencing nasal issues? Are you interested in enhancing the look of your nose? Contact us today for a complimentary consultation!