Deviated Septum

The nasal septum is the wall of cartilage that divides the nose into two separate chambers. A deviated septum occurs when this wall is off center or crooked. This may cause congestion, problems with breathing or nasal discharge.

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Our physicians are the only in Greater Cincinnati who have performed and published research on how best to evaluate and treat a deviated septum. Our subspecialists use their expertise to accurately diagnose problems related to this condition.

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Our Allergy & Sinus experts are global leaders in diagnosing and treating conditions of the nose and sinuses. From pioneering new procedures to helping write national treatment guidelines, our physicians are known around the world for their innovation and research in this subspecialty.

To schedule an appointment, please call the UC Health Allergy & Sinus team at 513-475-8400.

About This Condition

Understanding Deviated Septum

What causes a deviated septum?

You may be born with a deviated septum. Or it can result from injury, or damage from past treatments.

What are the symptoms of a deviated septum?

The most common symptom from a deviated septum is trouble breathing through the nose. You may also have stuffiness, congestion, or a feeling of fullness. The symptoms are often worse on one side. In some cases, normal sinus drainage is affected. This can result in repeated sinus infections.

Other people normally can’t tell you have a deviated septum.

How is a deviated septum diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will take a health history and do a physical exam. He or she will ask questions about any previous injuries, and symptoms. The physical exam may be done with a handheld tool (nasal speculum) that lets your provider gently open the nostril a little. Or your provider may use a small lighted scope (otoscope) to look into an ear or a nostril. Your provider may also use look at your nasal or sinus passages (nasal endoscopy). This is done using a thin, flexible lighted tube with a camera in it. If needed, a CT scan of the nose may be done.

How is a deviated septum treated?

Depending on the severity of your symptoms, surgery may be advised. Septoplasty is a reconstructive surgery done to correct a deviated nasal septum. The procedure is done through the nostrils. During the procedure, parts of the septum may be removed. Or they may be readjusted and reinserted into the nose.

Surgery is done entirely through the nose with no external incisions.  Depending on the severity of the deviation, septoplasty may be done in:

  • A surgeon's office.

  • An outpatient surgery center.

  • A hospital as an outpatient.

  • A hospital as an inpatient.

The surgeon will let you know when you can get back to normal activities. Many people recover in a few days. They can go back to school or to non-active work in a week or so.

After surgery, you may have a splint on your nose to help hold its new shape. You may also have nasal packs or soft splints in your nostrils to stabilize the septum. Whether any of these is used and for how long is determined in a personalized, patient-by-patient manner.  

Short-term side effects of surgery may include:

  • Congestion.

  • Nose may ache.

  • Dull headache.

  • Small amount of bleeding in the first few days.

Most patients notice improved breathing through their nose within 1–2 weeks.  However, complete healing is a slow process the final results of nasal surgery may not be clear for several months or more.

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