If your ear, nose and throat (ENT) doctor has recommended you have septoplasty (septum surgery) to improve your nasal breathing, you may be worried about the pain and recovery process. While trepidation is normal before any procedure you should know there have been many advances in septum surgery. Recovery time is not long, the pain is more akin to discomfort, and in most instances, the uncomfortable nasal packing has been replaced with silicone septal splints. Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about septum surgery.

Will I have bruises or scars around my eyes and nose?

A septoplasty is performed within the nasal passages. You should not have any external scars. Unlike rhinoplasty which rebuilds the exterior of the nose, septum surgery only involves restructuring the interior. You should not have bruising around your eyes. You may have minor swelling.

Will it look like I had a nose job?

Septum surgery by itself will not change the exterior shape or size of your nose. It is only involved with the correcting of the cartilage and bone that separates the nostrils on the inside of the nose.

How much downtime will I have?

Each surgery is individual and each recovery is individual as well. You can expect to return to work or normal activities within three days to one week. It is important you do not participate in sports, exercise or other strenuous activities until the ENT clears you. If your work requires heavy lifting or strenuous activity, be sure to discuss this prior to your surgery. These activities can cause bleeding and may require you to take time off from work.

Do I have to stay in the hospital?

No, under normal circumstances an overnight stay is not necessary. Septum surgery is performed on an outpatient basis. Some simple septoplasty procedures can even be performed in the ENT’s office. If you have worries or fears about the hospital, be sure to discuss them in advance with the ENT.

Will it hurt?

Septum surgery is performed under local or general anesthesia. You will not feel any pain at all during the procedure. Immediately afterwards you may feel some discomfort but it will be mild and easily controlled with oral pain medication. The feeling of stuffiness in the first few days after surgery is completely normal.

Do I need to prepare?

It is very important you let your ENT know all medications, over-the-counter drugs and supplements you take. Some medications will need to be stopped up to two weeks before your surgery if they present an increased risk of bleeding. If your septum surgery will be under general anesthesia it is important to follow directions for fasting in the hours before your surgery. It is a good idea to wear a button down shirt on the day of your procedure and in the days following, as well. Avoid any clothing that must be pulled over your head.

What will I need to do afterwards?

Even if your procedure was performed under local anesthesia, it is a good idea to have someone available to drive you home. Immediately after the procedure you will want to rest with your head elevated. Resting and sleeping with your head elevated helps to reduce swelling and inflammation so you recover faster. It also makes it much easier to breathe. If nasal packing was necessary, it will need to be removed in two to three days. The ENT will give you specific instructions about nasal irrigation. Be sure to follow the ENT’s directions on how frequently to irrigate. This procedure will remove mucus, dried blood and other secretions and will make you feel much better.

Have any other questions?

If you have other questions you didn’t find answered here, don’t hesitate to ask the ENT. Your ENT wants you to feel comfortable and confident about your septum surgery.