Deviated Septum

What is it?

The thin wall inside your nose that separates the two nasal cavities is called the nasal septum. In most people, the nasal septum is not exactly in the center between the two nasal cavities, but it is close enough to the midline that breathing is normal in both nostrils.

Occasionally, the septum is severely off-center. This is called a deviated septum. This can be a congenital (from birth) condition or can result from an injury. The incident that causes the injury could be serious, such as a car accident, or could be something that seems minor but causes enough damage to cause problems. For example, the birthing process can cause a deviated septum in a newborn. Older children may take a blow to the nose during sports, rough-housing or rigorous play.

What are the symptoms?

If the deviated septum is minor, there are no symptoms. If it is severe, it can lead to:

  • Difficulty breathing through one or both nostrils. This may be more noticeable with colds or allergies.
  • Noisy breathing during sleeping, especially in young children
  • Nasal congestion
  • Post-nasal drip (dripping of mucous into the back of the throat when nasal congestion makes it impossible for the mucous to flow out the nose)
  • Nosebleeds
  • Frequent sinus infections, which can cause headaches and facial pain

What is the treatment?

In children, most treatment is directed at managing the symptoms. For example, decongestants, antihistamines, or nasal sprays can help a child breathe. The surgery to repair a deviated septum, called septoplasty, is only performed in the most severe cases and typically is not performed until a child is a young adult who has finished growing.

About surgery for a deviated septum at Children's

The ENT surgery team at Children's provides next-generation care to neonatal infants, newborns, children, and adolescents from throughout the Upper Midwest. This multidisciplinary team provides some of the most cutting-edge, delicate treatments available, including newborn surgery and minimally invasive surgery. Otolaryngology surgery is performed at Children's - Minneapolis, Children's - St. Paul, and Children's West.

If you are a family member looking for a Children's ENT specialist, visit Find a Doctor.

If you are a health professional looking for a consultation or referral information, please call Children's Physician Referral at 1-866-755-2121 (toll-free).

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