What's Recommended for a Nose That Impedes Airflow: Septoplasty or Rhinoplasty?

Is it possible for patients to improve breathing from either surgery?

Doctor Answers 11

Septplasty or Rhinoplasty to Improve Nasal breathing

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You must first determine the cause of your nasal obstruction before deciding if a septoplasty, rhinoplasty.or both should be done to improve nasal breathing. Even if not necessary to improve breathing, you may want to include a rhinoplasty if you do not like the appearance of your nose.

Beverly Hills Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 43 reviews

Is a Septoplasty or Rhinoplasty recommended to improve nasal airflow?

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Technically, both septoplasty and rhinoplasty can improve nasal airflow. Septoplasty refers to surgery to improve the position of the nasal septum (the midline wall in the nose that divides it into a right and left nasal cavity).

Rhinoplasty refers to surgery that changes the outward appearance of the nose. Normally we use this term to mean more cosmetic changes, but "functional rhinoplasty" can be done to produce improved airflow. This can involve treating narrowed internal or external nasal valves using spreader grafts or alar batten grafts, for example.

So while both surgeries can improve nasal congestion what really matters in addressing your symptoms is determining the cause(s) of your obstruction. This is best done via an exam by a surgeon with extensive experience in treating chronic breathing issues like you describe.

Thomas A. Lamperti, MD
Seattle Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 22 reviews

What's Recommended for a Nose That Impedes Airflow: Septoplasty or Rhinoplasty?

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RHINOPLASTY refers to the group of procedures which change the structure and appearance of the nose. SEPTOPLASTY refers to the group of operations which change the structure of the septum, the rigid wall between the two airways of the nose. Difficulty breathing is often related toeither allergies and or  structural issues involving the septum, inner nasal vale and or the turbinates, structures on the side wall of the mid-nose.

To improve breathing the surgeon has to understand the full cause of the obstruction and then perform the individual, select set of Rhinoplasty procedures which would address that problem. 

Peter A. Aldea, MD
Memphis Plastic Surgeon

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Septoplasty and rhinoplasty

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Nasal airway obstruction can be due to one or more of the following: septal deviation, enlarged turbinates, engorged or hypertrophic nasal mucosa, masses within the nose such as polyps or external or internal nasal valve collapse. The treatment then is dependent on the root cause of the obstruction. If it is only septal deviation the only recommended procedure is septoplasty unless some cosmetic changes are desired at the same time.

My response to your question/post does not represent formal medical advice or constitute a doctor patient relationship. You need to consult with i.e. personally see a board certified plastic surgeon in order to receive a formal evaluation and develop a doctor patient relationship.

Aaron Stone, MD
Los Angeles Plastic Surgeon

Septoplasty or rhinoplasty for airway problems?

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Actually, this is just a question of semantics! Rhinoplasty is "surgery of the nose" and this has many parts, some or all of which may be included in any specific nose operation for an individual patient's concerns. This CAN include septal or turbinate surgery to improve breathing, but the term "Rhinoplasty" itself is a general one. Many surgeons, myself included, will add specific terms to further explain the exact steps in our operative procedures.

Septoplasty, however, is "surgery of the septum" and this too can be one of several choices, including septal repositioning, submucous resection, morcellization, etc., but does not involve cosmetic changes to the exterior of the nose. Septoplasty is never cosmetic or elective.

Turbinate surgery can also improve airway patency, and can be one of several variations; it too is never cosmetic or elective as it helps open the airways.

The best way to summarize all of this is to consider nose surgery to be comprised of cosmetic changes (that hopefully will not cause any airway or breathing changes--but can) and breathing changes (that hopefully will not cause any cosmetic concerns--but can, such as widening the nose with spreader grafts). Insurance covers breathing issues, but not cosmetic ones.

Ah, and here's the reason for the distinction--septorhinoplasty may be necessary to correct both functional and externally-visible deformity, and in years past many surgeons got mostly or entirely-cosmetic nose surgery "covered" by insurance by calling the surgery septorhinoplasty rather than rhinoplasty. Now the insurance companies have divided up the surgery into functional and elective (breathing and cosmetic) parts.

I hope this helped to answer your question! Best wishes!

Richard H. Tholen, MD, FACS
Minneapolis Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 263 reviews

Septoplasty or rhinoplasty to improve breathing

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Maybe both! The archetecture of the bones and cartilages that make up the external appearance may also cause airway obstruction, Septoplasty can be combined with rhinoplasty, or they can be done  separately.

Barry H. Dolich, MD (Retired)
Bronx Plastic Surgeon

Purpose of Septoplasty and Rhinoplasty

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For breathing issues, typically a septoplasty and/or a reduction in the turbinates is performed.  These surgeries will typically not impact the appearance of your nose.

A rhinoplasty is to change the outward appearance of your nose.  There may be an impact on your breathing, but typically there is not.  Rarely, some patients with a particular type of breathing disorder will require a rhinoplasty to address breathing.

Louis W. Apostolakis, MD
Austin Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 37 reviews

Improving nasal airflow; Rhinoplasty vs Septoplasty!

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As you've probably read below, Rhinoplasty surgery deals mainly with the cosmetic appearance of the nose (the outside of the nose). To correct airway issues, three things should be considered: The shape and position of the septum, the patency of the internal nasal valves and the size of the inferior turbinates. A Septoplasty corrects deformities of the septum inside the nose. Cartilage spreader grafts add support to the internal nasal valve and Partial Inferior Turbinectomies may be needed to reduce the size of enlarged and space occupying turbinates inside the nose. Your internal and external nasal examination will determine which procedures are appropriate for you.

Ramin Behmand, MD
San Francisco Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 44 reviews

Breathing difficulties what surgery ?

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Rhinoplasty, septoplasty or both maybe needed to treat the breathing difficulty. It depends on the cause of the impending airflow. The cause could be internal such as a devoted septum or a narrow internal nasal valve or externally due to a narrow nostril each treated by a different procedure. Although rhinoplasty is more common to have for cosmetic reasons. 

See a board certified surgeon that is experianced with those procedures!


Good luck

Septoplasty and rhinoplasty

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Septoplasty can improve ariflow in the right candidate.  THe other appearance of the nose is often not related to breathing issues.

Steven Wallach, MD
New York Plastic Surgeon
4.2 out of 5 stars 30 reviews

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.