5 weeks post Septoplasty: life is great!

It’s hard to believe that having a clear nose to breathe out of has made a huge change in my life. For those of you considering Septoplasty, I highly recommend it. I will include links below to my first two posts.

As for the recovery, I thought I’d go into a bit more detail. The first week after my splints were removed my nose still hurt a bit to the touch and I needed to flush my nose at least twice a day to clean out residual junk (blood and mucous). Granted it wasn’t much but I didn’t like to blow my nose and I sort of grew to enjoy saline flushes (yeah, weird, but true)

By two weeks post-op I was only doing nasal flushes once a day in the morning. I had started running again as well. I have had to “retrain” myself to become a nose breather when I run.

One week ago (or just about 4 weeks post-op) I no longer felt the need to flush my nose. But that’s how long it took for it to completely heal and drain out. Now at five weeks I feel pretty normal. The nose has no more discomfort if I touch it.

The thing that was most weird was the numbness directly behind my front teeth. That took almost 5 weeks. Today is the first day I feel no numbness there.

Many people have asked if I stopped snoring (yes, I did snore before!). I will say it did help. But don’t do this operation solely for the purpose of stopping snoring. It may/may not help. Sometimes I do a quick nap during the day and catch myself snoring (since I fall asleep in my recliner.) But at night I sleep mostly on my side and for the most part I’m not snoring anymore. I think I slept on my back a lot more prior to my surgery.

So for me, this surgery has been worth it! Please feel free to message me if you have any questions.

Part 1: What is Septoplasty and why I got it done

Part 2: Surgery

My Septoplasty Adventure Part 2: Surgery and Recovery

Read Part 1 here for more background on Septoplasty!

If you’ve had surgery before, then Septoplasty surgery itself will be easy peasy. Pay attention to your instructions about eating and drinking before surgery (typically eat dinner no later than 12 hours before surgery and nothing to drink after midnight). Try to see about getting your prescriptions for pain meds and antibiotics filled before your surgery so you don’t have to worry about that after surgery. Trust me – you’ll want to go straight home and rest. My doctor did get this taken care of and I thank him immensely. Yes, he did want me on antibiotics after surgery. I watched some YouTube videos where some people did come down with sinus infections so he believes in giving them as you’ll have a lot of gunk in your sinuses afterwards. DO talk with your doc if he does not prescribe them.

Plan to buy protein drinks or other soft foods to have for the first few days. My surgery was at 10 am and by 5 pm that same day I was hungry. But I just ate little bits every few hours. You will be intubated and more than likely your throat will hurt afterwards.

One of the important things you will need to do is purchase a saline flush kit. My doctor does not recommend a Neti pot. You need one with a squeeze bottle as shown below. Do practice beforehand. I did not, but after a day I finally got better. I’m used to nasal sprays, including saline ones, but with this you really need to master the technique of flushing out your nose. My doc wanted me doing it at least 4 times a day. I bought a kit with 30 packets of saline but ended up buying more because I came to really like doing this. I could feel the junk in my nose and since you can’t blow your nose, this is the only way to get it out. I got my splints out a week ago and I’m still doing it, although not as much — typically in the morning and at night.

As for the surgery, it’s like any other surgery. You go under and then a minute later you wake up! No, not really, but that’s what it feels like. Mine took just over an hour. The funny thing was when I finally woke up from the anesthesia, I started talking in Spanish. While I do not consider myself a true bilingual person I do spend time on WhatsApp every day chatting with friends in Costa Rica so I’m fairly proficient in Spanish. It’s so bizarre that this happened.

Anyhow, as expected my throat hurt like hell and I was thirsty. They gave me some Percocet and water and that did help, but my nose was still mighty uncomfortable. Here’s a pic of me later that day with my awful little nose sling thingy.  No makeup. Rare that I would even post a picture like this, but I don’t want to sugar coat this. This is surgery and you won’t feel wonderful afterwards.

post op–feeling miserable

Sleeping that night was awful. I tried sleeping in my recliner but my cat wanted to sleep with me. Somehow I got a few winks in, but it wasn’t easy. I took a Vicodin at bedtime and then another at 3 am. By morning the throat pain was gone. I was able to drink a little coffee but it tasted awful. I pretty much slept as much as I could all day. Like the day before I just ate soft food. The good news was that the bleeding was subsiding and I was able to sleep in my bed with an extra pillow. By the next morning the bleeding had stopped and I just kept tissue with me at all times. I detested the nose sling anyhow.

The next few days I saw steady improvement with less swelling and increased appetite, although I could not smell or taste anything! Also the front part of my mouth behind my incisors was numb. On the last two nights before I got the splints taken out my throat started to feel sore again. Not sure why. Perhaps some post-nasal drip down my throat at night.

On the seventh day I got my splints out! I was so happy to have this over, but let me tell you that this for me was the worst part. Although they sprayed numbing spray in my nose (some of which got in my throat) I could still feel the doc slowing take them out.  They were huge! Probably a good 2.5 inches long.

Nasal splints

He then suctioned out my nasal passages. That was uncomfortable, too. You know how they say to imagine yourself on a sunny beach when you’re having an uncomfortable medical procedure? Well, I tried that and it did help some but I was still anxious for it to be all over.

The next few days I continued to take Advil because my nose felt a little uncomfortable. It’s been almost a week and I almost feel back to normal. My nasal passages still feel just a tad bit swollen but no more blood when I flush out my nose. Yesterday I went running for the first time and being able to breathe through both nostrils was wonderful. And yes, my sense of smell and taste came back right after the splints came out.

In the end I’m glad I went through with this procedure. It actually was an easier recovery than I expected and I already am sleeping better.

back to normal! After my first run

My Septoplasty Adventure Part 1: Why I got one and what it is

First the why:

For as long as I can remember, or at least close to 45 years dating back to my teenage years, I’ve been an allergy sufferer. Sneezing, itchy eyes, stuffiness . . .  you name it. For the most part I learned to live with it. But as I got older, it got worse. When I moved to California I started taking over-the-counter (OTC) allergy pills, and then when I moved to Colorado 14 years ago, it got notably worse (dry air here.) I have tried pretty much every nasal spray and eye drop, along with OTC allergy pills and a humidifier in my bedroom. I finally decided to go to an allergist as my life was miserable.

The results were astounding. I was basically allergic to nothing. She did note that I had a deviated septum, but didn’t mention that it could be a contributing factor. So I continued living in misery and wondering what I could do. I then noticed several posts on a local FB page where people mentioned that they had better luck going to an Ear, Nose, and Throat (ENT) specialist than an allergist. Apparently, there are a lot of miserable people like me in Colorado.

However, it took me nearly 10 years to finally pull the trigger to make that appointment. I was always busy – traveling, kids’ school stuff, etc. Finally, I had the time last spring and the pandemic had settled down a little bit (we all know that has changed). So I made the appointment. I first went to the  physician assistant (PA) for the ENT (not the surgeon). Guess what? First thing that came up was the deviated septum. He also mentioned that my turbinates were enlarged and that I was the perfect candidate for septoplasty with turbinate reduction. First he wanted me to do a specific corticoid nasal spray for a month to document for insurance purposes that a non-surgical approach was unsuccessful. No surprises – spray didn’t help a bit. So I came back one month later and talked with the surgeon. He confirmed what his PA had said, explained the surgery and turned me over to scheduling. I could have had it done within a few weeks but I decided to wait until all my traveling and remodeling projects were done. In a way, I wish I hadn’t waited, as recovery was easier than expected. But anyhow, it’s done now and I couldn’t be happier.

So what is a deviated septum, septoplasty, and those funky things call turbinates?

The best way to show what a deviated septum is by a simple graphic:

You may also take a look at your nose in the mirror and note that your nostrils are a different size. Here’s a lovely pic of me before. As you can see mine are a slightly different size. Not horrible. But the doc said that my septum looked worse further up. In some people it’s much more obvious as seen in the man shown below my picture

So how do you get a deviated septum? Well, a lot of people have one simply due to genetics (thanks Mom & Dad), or they have had a rough trip out during childbirth (high birth weight babies in particular.) The other is injury. And that doesn’t necessarily mean a broken nose, although a broken nose can certainly cause a deviated septum. In particular, athletes such as basketball players frequently get banged in the nose without it actually being broken. This I believe is what happened to me, although not in basketball. I had a sledding accident when I was 12 or so where a saucer sled hit me in the bridge of my nose. I was gushing blood but my nose was not broken. However, that seems to stand out in my mind as the beginning of the time I started to have allergy issues.

So what are turbinates?

According to Stanford Health, “Turbinates are small structures inside the nose that cleanse and humidify air that passes through the nostrils into the lungs. They are made by a bony structure surrounded by vascular tissue and a mucous membrane outside, and can become swollen and inflamed by allergies, irritation or infection, causing nasal obstruction and producing an excessive amount of mucous which leads to congestion.”

This part of the procedure is relatively straightforward and uses a radiofrequency instrument to reduce the size.

So what is Septoplasty?

Well, I’m not going to get into the nuts and bolts of how it is done, but the main thing to know is that it is done under general anesthesia and you will have a fun little set of internal nose splints when you are done. (see graphic below) Unlike rhinoplasty, the nose is not broken or reset but you will have some swelling and discomfort for a number of days. I will talk more about that in my next post.