Septoplasty vs. Rhinoplasty – What is the Difference?

Septoplasty vs. Rhinoplasty – What is the difference?

This is a big question that comes up when NYC rhinoplasty patients start researching about nasal surgery.  These two terms often come up alongside each other; some patients have even seen their planned procedure being described as a “septorhinoplasty”.  So what is the difference?

Septoplasty specifically means that the middle part of the nose, the wall that separates the right and left sides of the nose, is being surgically changed.  The main reason to do this is to try to correct a breathing issue which is caused by the septum being deviated into one side of the nose or the other.   Typically, the septoplasty procedure is done using a “closed” technique, which means that the scars are hidden inside the nose, invisible to the patient or anyone else.  These surgeries are relatively straightforward and are performed commonly by general Ear, Nose, & Throat Surgeons with excellent results. However, even the best septoplasty surgeon in NYC cannot correct certain other nasal issues with just a septoplasty alone.  This is where rhinoplasty comes in.

Rhinoplasty refers to an operation meant to reshape the nose and definitely is the right term for any procedure done for aesthetic reasons.  However, it can also be used to treat functional or breathing problems in a variety of situations.  Typically the operation is longer and much more meticulous, because the surgeon needs to precisely control the external appearance of the nose.

There is one situation where the overlap of the septoplasty and rhinoplasty techniques becomes very clear – cases in which the septum is so severely deviated that the nose is crooked externally.  In these cases the septum is so severely deviated that it needs to be completely changed to get the right breathing and aesthetic result.

Another way in which these procedures overlap is actually very relevant to any NYC rhinoplasty or septoplasty patient.  In rhinoplasty operations, the septum itself is often they material used to make the desired changes to the nose.  If a patient undergoes septoplasty, the septum is permanently altered, and frequently this makes a future rhinoplasty much more difficult and expensive, requiring ear or rib cartilage to accomplish the goals of the surgery.  Because of this, I counsel every septoplasty patient in my practice that they should know with pretty high certainty whether they would ever want a rhinoplasty in the future.

So to sum up, think of septoplasty as an isolated treatment of the septum, which can be done with an ENT surgeon with very little effect on the appearance of the nose.  Think of rhinoplasty as a more involved operation performed by a Facial Plastic surgeon that is performed for aesthetic reasons or functional breathing issues that are beyond the problems treatable with septoplasty.

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