Septoplasty and Inferior Turbinate Reduction form the basis of functional rhinoplasty procedures. They are often first line treatments performed by Ear, Nose & Throat specialists (Otolaryngologists), but they are also frequently required in cases where the patient can’t breathe after rhinoplasty or previous septoplasty. Sometimes there is confusion over what these procedures really are, and what they are not.
The septum is the wall inside the nose that separates the right and left sides of the nose. It is made out of cartilage and bone, and covered on both sides by the skin in the nose which is more properly known as “mucosa”. Inferior turbinates are the round “ball” like structures on either side of the septum that can actually be seen if you look in the mirror and shine a flashlight up your nose. If the septum is deviated, it can be to either the right or left side, or even to both sides. When the septum is deviated to one side, it is extremely common for the inferior turbinate on the opposite side to grow to be enlarged. This leads to obstruction of breathing on both sides of the nose.
Another important part of the septum is what is known as the “caudal” septum. This is the very front part of the septum that you can easily see and touch with your hands. It is important because correcting deviations of this part of the septum is actually the most difficult type of septal surgery to perform. It is more difficult because it requires an external incision to access, and the techniques used are more technically challenging. ENTs usually refer these cases to facial plastic surgeons who are more familiar with the best rhinoplasty techniques to address these kinds of septoplasties.