The Patient’s Guide to Septoplasty and Turbinate Reduction Surgery

close up image of a woman's nose and eyes looking into the distance

If you have trouble breathing through your nose, you’re not alone.  Did you know that 80% of the general population has a deviated septum? In addition to trouble breathing, a crooked or deviated septum can cause chronic congestion, nosebleeds, sleep apnea, sinus infections and other difficult conditions. Today we’ll discuss the nasal surgery for deviated septum and breathing easier, which are septoplasty surgery and turbinate reduction surgery.

What Is Septoplasty?

Septoplasty is a surgical procedure that corrects a crooked or deviated septum and allows for better airflow. Your septum is located inside your nose and is made of approximately 2.5 to 3 inches of cartilage and bone. 

What’s the purpose of a septum? It separates the two chambers of your nose, also known as nostrils. If your septum is deviated or bent, it can block your nostrils from proper airflow and make it difficult to breathe normally. 

Septoplasty surgery is a common procedure that straightens the septum inside your nose. The procedure reduces congestion and nasal polyps and sometimes even alleviates or eliminates snoring.

[Related: Signs of Sleep Apnea to Watch Out For]


Septoplasty Surgery Process

In most cases, a doctor performs septoplasty on an outpatient basis under general anesthesia. 

Your ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist will create a small incision on one side of your nose and lift the membrane protecting the septum to reshape the bone and cartilage. Sometimes the doctor will remove excess cartilage or bone to properly straighten the septum. After the reshaping, your ENT specialist will reposition the membrane over your septum. 

The procedure is extremely common, with doctors performing more than 260,000 septoplasties in the U.S. each year. Septoplasty typically takes only 30 to 90 minutes. 


Septoplasty Recovery and Healing

After the septoplasty surgery, your doctor will insert soft packing and splints to hold the nasal tissue in place, encourage proper healing and reduce the risk of scar tissue. After one week passes, the doctor can remove your splints. Sometimes your doctor will leave only dissolving stitches, which should disappear on their own once your nose heals.

Although septoplasty takes only a few days to recover from, you need to make sure to follow your doctor’s postcare instructions. Avoid exercise, heavy lifting and other activities that will increase your blood pressure and heart rate to manage the risk of extra bleeding, pain and swelling. 

You can expect mild to moderate discomfort after septoplasty surgery, with some pain and pressure around your sinus area that should fade in a few days.

Your septum should be stable and almost completely healed after three to six months.

[Related: Breathing Techniques to Implement When You’re Sitting at Your Desk All Day]


Who Qualifies for Septoplasty Surgery?

Septoplasty has several benefits for adolescents and adults who are suffering from a deviated septum. Doctors rarely perform the procedure in young children unless the case is severe. 

If you’re struggling with breathing issues due to a crooked septum, nasal polyps or other conditions, you may qualify for septoplasty treatment.

Healthcare providers may also suggest septoplasty to patients who want to treat chronic sinusitis, obstructive sleep apnea, chronic nosebleeds or other conditions that block the nasal airway.


What Is Turbinate Reduction Surgery?

If you struggle with breathing due to a deviated septum and nasal obstruction, your ENT specialist may recommend pairing septoplasty surgery with turbinate reduction.

Turbinates are small structures inside the nose. They’re made of a bony structure surrounded by tissue and mucous membrane. In sum, they guide air through the nostrils by cleansing and humidifying it on its way to the lungs. 

If allergies or infection irritates the turbinates, they can swell and cause nasal obstruction, leading to congestion.

Turbinate reduction surgery is a treatment that can help soothe and reduce the size of a patient’s turbinates to improve airflow. 

[Related: When to Get a Sleep Study for Your Snoring]


Turbinate Reduction Surgery Process

Your doctor will perform turbinate reduction surgery either by itself or in addition to other treatments, such as septoplasty or rhinoplasty. The procedure itself is quick, taking only about 10 minutes, and performed under general or local anesthesia. 

During the surgery, your ENT specialist will remove or shrink excess tissue surrounding your turbinates using one of several techniques.


In cauterization, the doctor uses a heated probe that closes off certain turbinate blood vessels. The reduced blood flow then shrinks the tissues, which allows for better airflow.

Radiofrequency Turbinate Reduction

During radiofrequency turbinate reduction, your doctor will form scar tissue using radiofrequency ablation and a heated probe to shrink the inflamed turbinates.


Coblation is similar to radiofrequency reduction in that it uses heat to shrink the tissues. However, this method uses a lower temperature to keep the surrounding tissues intact.

Microdebrider Submucosal Resection

In microdebrider submucosal resection, your doctor will create a small incision in one of your turbinates. Then, they’ll remove tissue through that opening while leaving the outer layer intact. While your nose heals from the opening, your turbinates will also shrink.

Partial Resection

During partial resection, your doctor will remove a small piece of one of your turbinates, including both hard and soft tissue.


Turbinate Reduction Recovery and Healing

The turbinate reduction surgery recovery process is fairly straightforward and painless. 

After surgery, you’ll probably experience crusting on the nose for a few weeks. Doctors will often suggest frequently using nasal saline irrigations and applying antibiotic ointment to soothe the nostrils and guide the healing process. 

Follow your doctor’s instructions, and take any medications prescribed to speed up the healing process. Complete recovery can take up to six weeks.

The turbinate reduction success rate is approximately 82%, so you may need to schedule an additional procedure. However, this is fairly rare. Most patients find the results long-lasting and satisfactory.

[Related: Why Breathing Leads to Better Mindfulness]


Who Qualifies for Turbinate Reduction Surgery?

You may qualify for turbinate reduction surgery if your nasal obstruction leads to chronic congestion, nasal drip or other breathing disorders. 

Doctors typically recommend the surgery if nonsurgical treatments don’t fix your breathing issues. To improve airflow, doctors often pair turbinate reduction surgery with septoplasty or rhinoplasty. 

Although mainly adults undergo turbinate reduction surgery, children can qualify for the treatment under certain circumstances.


Contact Dr. Matorin Today

If you suffer from nasal blockage due to a deviated septum, you might find doing even the simplest tasks is more difficult than it should be. Decreased airflow can seriously affect your quality of life and make living healthy extremely difficult. 

If you’re interested on a nasal surgery for deviated septum, you have a ENT problem or you want to reach out, contact Dr. Matorin’s office today.


Featured image via Unsplash


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