Will I Need Surgery for My Deviated Septum?

Jun 02, 2023
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Are you tired of the congestion, recurring sinusitis, and facial pain that can accompany a deviated septum? Good news – not every deviated septum requires surgery. But if you do need it, surgery may be less invasive than you fear.

Board-certified otolaryngologist Dr. Phillip T. Ho at Silicon Valley ENT & Sinus Center in Los Gatos, California, provides expert care, including surgical fixes for issues like a deviated septum. However, he always tries conservative treatments first since they’re often enough to relieve your symptoms.

Read what Dr. Ho says about a deviated septum, the benefits of conservative treatment, and what to expect if surgery is your best option.

Understanding a deviated septum

The nasal septum is a structure of cartilage, bone, and soft tissue that divides the nasal cavity into roughly equal halves.

However, when the septum is significantly deviated (crooked), it can obstruct one or both nasal passages, leading to symptoms like:

These symptoms can significantly impact your overall quality of life and well-being. However, depending on the level of deviation, many conservative therapies can relieve your symptoms.

What nonsurgical treatments are available for a deviated septum?

Before recommending surgery, Dr. Ho may suggest various nonsurgical therapies to relieve your symptoms, which may include:

Nasal dilators

Nasal dilators come in various forms, such as external nasal strips, clips, or cones. By gently opening the nasal passages, dilators help alleviate congestion and reduce the breathing difficulties caused by a deviated septum. 

Nasal dilators are typically easy to use, affordable, and provide temporary relief, particularly during sleep or physical activities.

Nasal irrigation

Nasal irrigation involves flushing the nasal passages with a saline solution. This process helps clear mucus, reduce inflammation, and relieve congestion. 

You can perform nasal irrigation using a neti pot, squeeze bottle, or nasal irrigation kit, available in pharmacies. While it does not correct a deviated septum, regular nasal irrigation can help manage your symptoms.


Dr. Ho may prescribe medication such as nasal corticosteroid sprays to help reduce inflammation in the nasal passages, decreasing congestion and improving airflow.

Other therapies that may provide temporary symptom relief include:

  • Using a humidifier to reduce nasal dryness and congestion
  • Avoiding exposure to smoke, dust, and other environmental irritants
  • Sleeping with your head elevated to facilitate better breathing during sleep
  • Managing allergies that can exacerbate congestion and other symptoms

When these conservative therapies fail to relieve your symptoms adequately, Dr. Ho may suggest other nonsurgical treatments, such as remodeling nasal tissue with radiofrequency energy (VivAER®) or RhinAER® treatments to help shrink inflammation in the nasal passages.

What happens if I need surgery for a deviated septum?

Deviated septum surgery, or septoplasty, aims to straighten the nasal septum and improve airflow through the nasal passages. Dr. Ho discusses the surgery in detail, including aftercare and what to expect from the surgery before scheduling your procedure.

Generally, however, septoplasty is an outpatient service, meaning you return home on the same day as your surgery. During the procedure, Dr. Ho accesses the septum through the nostrils, making inner incisions to lift the tissue membrane lining the septum.

He then reshapes or removes the deviated cartilage and repositions the lining, closing any incisions with sutures. Dr. Ho notes that nasal septoplasty typically takes less than an hour, and the usual healing period is one to two weeks. 

Initially, you may require nasal packing and splints to support and stabilize the septum as it heals. Nasal saline sprays and gentle cleaning help alleviate congestion and discomfort. 

Post-surgical pain is usually manageable with over-the-counter pain medications. Dr. Ho also recommends avoiding strenuous physical activity for a couple of weeks to aid healing.

Explore your treatment options for a deviated nasal septum. Schedule an evaluation with Dr. Ho at Silicon Valley ENT & Sinus Center today. Call the office or request an appointment online.