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What is a deviated septum?

A deviated septum occurs where there's an abnormal shape to the wall that divides your child's two nostrils.

  • A septum is a wall that divides two cavities. In the nose, the septum is made of cartilage and divides the nose into two separate chambers (right and left).
  • A deviated septum may cause problems with proper breathing or nasal discharge.

Deviated Septum | Symptoms & Causes

What causes a deviated septum?

Sometimes, a deviated septum occurs during fetal development and can be seen when your baby is born.

More commonly, a deviated septum is the result of an injury to your child's nose. This can happen while playing sports, in a car accident, or even if your child bumps into a wall.

Deviated Septum | Diagnosis & Treatments

How is a deviated septum diagnosed?

Your child's doctor will be able to see the deviation by looking into your child's nose.

How is a deviated septum treated?

Your child's physician will probably recommend a simple septoplasty, which is a reconstructive plastic surgery performed to correct an improperly formed nasal septum.

In addition to correcting a deviated nasal septum, septoplasty may also be performed to correct other problems, such as cleft abnormalities that affect the nose and nasal cavity.

What happens during the septoplasty?

Septoplasty may be performed with the traditional open surgical technique or from inside the nose. When open surgery is performed, small scars will be located on the base of the nose, but they usually are not noticeable. Scarring is not visible when internal surgery is performed.

Depending on the severity of the deviation, your child's septoplasty may be performed in the following settings:

  • A surgeon's office
  • An outpatient surgery center
  • A hospital as an outpatient
  • A hospital as an inpatient

Your child's surgeon will provide guidelines for resuming normal activities. Many children are up and around within a few days and able to return to school in a week or so.

What are the complications associated with nasal surgery?

Children vary greatly in their anatomy and healing ability, so the outcome is never completely predictable.

Complications may occur, including the following:

  • Infection
  • Nosebleed
  • Reaction to the anesthesia

Short-term side effects of surgery may include:

  • Splint applied to nose to help maintain new shape
  • Nasal packs or soft plastic splints placed in nostrils to stabilize septum
  • Face will feel puffy
  • Nose may ache
  • Dull headache
  • Swelling around the eyes
  • Bruising around the eyes
  • Small amount of bleeding in first few days
  • Small burst blood vessels may appear as tiny red spots on the skin's surface

If any of these symptoms don't subside, consult your child's physician.

How we care for a deviated septum

The Department of Otolaryngology and Communication Enhancement at Boston Children's Hospital can provide comprehensive care for your child's deviated septum. The team will perform a diagnosis, propose a surgical treatment, and follow up to make sure your child is recovering well.

Deviated Septum | Programs & Services