Repair of Nasal Septal Perforation

Surgery Overview

The nasal septum is the structure between the nostrils that separates the nasal passages. The septum, composed of cartilage and thin bone, can develop a hole (perforation) in the cartilage as a complication of previous nasal surgery, from cocaine use, excessive nose picking, trauma, cancer, or diseases such as tuberculosis, sarcoidosis, or syphilis. As damage reduces blood supply in the septum, the cartilage begins to die, and a hole develops.

Some perforations can cause bleeding, pain, and a whistling sound when inhaling. If dried blood or scabs build up, you could also have trouble breathing through your nose.

Many perforations do not need to be closed. Small perforations may need only frequent rinsing with saltwater (saline) solutions and applying lubricating gels. Both can be bought without a prescription.

Several surgical techniques may be used to close a larger perforation. A surgeon may use tissue from inside your nose or from another part of your body (autograft) to stitch into the hole. Other doctors may use tissue to create a flap to cover the perforation.

Surgery for large perforations usually requires general anesthesia.

What to Expect After Surgery

Some doctors place a foam pack or splint in the nose, to be left in place for 5 to 7 days. After the pack or splint is removed, you will begin rinsing the nose several times a day with saline. Your doctor will instruct you on how to use the saline. You can expect drainage after surgery.

You may need to have your nose cleaned in the doctor's office a few times. Your nose should be healed 2 to 3 weeks after the nasal pack is removed.

Avoid blowing your nose, strenuous exercise, and bending forward for a few days. Also take care not to injure your nose during exercise or other activities.

Why It Is Done

Some nasal septal perforations can cause symptoms such as bleeding and pain. Small perforations can create a whistling sound when you inhale. In cases of long-term, severe perforation, the bridge of the nose can develop a saddle-shaped deformity. Surgery can resolve these problems.

How Well It Works

Surgery to repair a nasal septal perforation is usually successful. But some large perforations may be difficult to close.

Risks

Bleeding and infection can occur after any surgery. You should contact your doctor if you have:

  • Heavy bleeding. Mild bleeding is normal.
  • A fever of 101°F (38.3°C) or higher.
  • Severe pain. Mild pain is expected.
  • Pus.
  • A foul smell coming from the nose.
  • A persistent headache.

Sometimes the perforation may reopen and need another surgery.

What to Think About

Success of surgery depends to some extent on the size of the perforation and also on proper postsurgery care at home. Large perforations are more difficult to close.

The repair may not be as successful in people who smoke or have diabetes as in other people, because these conditions can reduce blood supply to the septum.

A doctor may want to try a nonsurgical technique to close the perforation before suggesting surgery. In some cases, a doctor may insert septal "buttons" made of silicone or other materials that are cut to fit the perforation.

Other Places To Get Help

Organizations

American Rhinologic Society
P.O. Box 495
Warwick, NY 10990-0495
Phone: (845) 988-1631
Fax: (845) 986-1527
E-mail: arsinfo@american-rhinologic.org
Web Address: http://american-rhinologic.org
 

The American Rhinologic Society is an organization for doctors who treat people with diseases of the nose and sinuses. Patients and other interested individuals can use this Web site to find information about diseases of the sinuses and nose. Doctors and other health professionals can use this Web site to learn about all ARS activities, including scientific meetings and abstracts.


American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery (AAO-HNS)
1650 Diagonal Road
Alexandria, VA  22314-2857
Phone: (703) 836-4444
Web Address: www.entnet.org
 

The American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery (AAO-HNS) is the world's largest organization of physicians dedicated to the care of ear, nose, and throat (ENT) disorders. Its Web site includes information for the general public on ENT disorders.


Related Information

References

Other Works Consulted

  • Lund VJ (2009). Acute and chronic nasal disorders. In JB Snow Jr, PA Wackym, eds., Ballenger's Otorhinolaryngology: Head and Neck Surgery, 17th ed., pp. 557–566. Hamilton, ON: BC Decker.

Credits

Author Monica Rhodes
Editor Kathleen M. Ariss, MS
Associate Editor Pat Truman, MATC
Primary Medical Reviewer Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Donald R. Mintz, MD - Otolaryngology
Last Updated November 9, 2009

Last Updated: November 9, 2009

related physicians

related services

Bon Secours International| Sisters of Bon Secours USA| Bon Secours Health System

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. Privacy Policy. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

© 1995-2010 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.