Per Sitemeter, a lot of people are finding their way here by Googling "septoplasty recovery". Unfortunately, this sends them to a post I wrote within a week of the surgery, which is not overly helpful. So I thought I'd write a new post on the topic that would be.
Are you considering having or about to have a septoplasty? Read on, friend.
1. It is totally and completely worthwhile. My only regret is not having done it sooner. To people who do not share our chronic congestion and sinusitis, it might sound like an exaggeration to say that having the septoplasty is one of the best things I've ever done for myself. But really, it seriously improved my quality of life. You may have your moments in the first week or two after surgery when you doubt whether it was really worth it. It was. It is. You'll see.
2. Check out your ENT. I picked mine from the internet, based on lots of positive reviews. When I really felt good about my choice though was when my doctor was explaining the potential risks of surgery to me and noted, when he mentioned the risk of perforation of the septum, that he's never had one result from a surgery he did, but he's fixed perforations from other doctors' surgeries. So maybe you want to ask your doctor about this before scheduling the surgery.
3. Ask for some Ativan. Or something else to help you sleep. My doctor gave me the Ativan because he said some people get anxious about having the splints in. That wasn't the case for me, but I had a very hard time sleeping for a couple of weeks after the surgery without taking an Ativan.
4. The splints don't hurt. I had to have some packing as well, since mine was not a simple septoplasty. I also had my turbinates reduced, a concha bullosa (an air pocket in the turbinate) fixed, and a mucosal cyst removed from one of my sinuses. I only required packing because they had to do some additional cutting to get the cyst out. The only serious pain I had from the surgery was on the third day when I had a massive sinus headache from the packing having expanded as it filled. Fortunately, that was the day it was being removed, which resulted in immediate relief. Contrary to what I'd read online beforehand, getting the packing and splints out didn't hurt at all.
5. You will need some time off. My doctor told me to take a week off work. I'm a teacher, so it's difficult to take that much time and I figured I'm young and healthy, I'll be fine. I had the surgery on Friday afternoon and went back to work the next Wednesday. I think the kids would have been better off with a sub the rest of that week because I was only about 50% awake.
6. You might have tooth pain or numbness for a while. I had a dull ache in my front teeth for a couple of weeks after surgery, but it was nothing Tylenol couldn't handle. My doctor prescribed Vicodin, but I only took it for the first two days.
7. Now to the really disgusting stuff. Seriously, if you are not about to have this surgery, LOOK AWAY. You are going to have scabs. Yes. I know. They are going to come out of your nose and it will be simultaneously super disgusting and a tremendous relief. There will also be a lot of bloody goo at first. You will wear a piece of gauze taped under your nose for a couple of days to catch it. Sexy.
8. Saline is your friend. Get a bottle (or two) of the plain old saline solution that you shoot up your nose. It will say something about moisturizing. If you do this often (my doctor said every hour or two) it will help keep you from getting those scabs I was telling you about. (You will wait to start this until your packing and splints are out. That's probably obvious though.)
9. It took about two weeks for me to feel back to pre-surgery normal. It was a couple of months before I really started noticing an improvement in my breathing (except when I'd go to my follow up appointments and get my sinuses vacuumed out - for a few minutes there I'd practically get high off so much oxygen coming in through my nose) and about six months to get the full benefit.
10. The full benefits for me have included:
No sinus infections at all! Sure, I still get colds (I do work with children) but since my sinuses can drain, the goo doesn't sit in my head and get infected.
Being able to sleep on either side most of the time. (Sometimes I do still need to sleep on my right if I have a cold or there's a high pollen count.)
As opposed to near-constant nasal drip, maybe I have it for a day here and there if the pollen is bad.
I no longer use Flonase, which I'd used every day for a few years to manage my constant congestion.
I only use a neti pot when I'm sick, as opposed to every single night.
I could SCUBA dive, which never would have been a possibility for me since you have to be able to clear your ears and my left ear was pretty much permanently congested.
Being able to run outside without spending the whole run and entirety of my post-run shower coughing up and spitting out the snot that was running down my throat. I do take Sudafed before long outdoor runs in the spring and fall to keep my sinuses from closing up so I can get the snot out of my head. The big difference there being that it will now come out of my nose instead of dripping down my throat. Hallelujah!
I hope this helps those of you who are considering septoplasty or have already scheduled it.
PLEASE NOTE: I am not a medical professional. At all. I'm happy to answer questions about my experience (please read the FAQ first though because almost everyone asks the same questions), but I cannot give you medical advice. If you have concerns, please call your doctor's office.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:
I'm still congested three days/one week/a month after surgery. Is that normal? Yes. You had surgery. With any surgery, there will be swelling. This means your sinuses will swell shut or close to it. Also, there's goop and scabs up in there. You're going to be congested for QUITE SOME TIME. It will get better.
I can't sleep! Yep, that's normal. This is why I suggest you ask your doctor to prescribe you something to help you sleep. It may also help to sleep sitting up or at least on an additional pillow. And keep some water near you so you can take a sip any time you wake up to keep your throat from getting too dry.
I have [specific symptom] that's freaking me out. What should I do? Call your doctor's office.
Not really ever asked, but should be:
Where can I get information on this from a real medical professional? All the doctors I know recommend getting your online medical information from Mayo Clinic or NIH. (Never, ever, ever WebMD. Ever.) In this case, there's an informative article from the NIH library here.