Deviated septum

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An MRI image showing a congenitally deviated nasal septum

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]


A deviated septum is a common physical disorder of the nose, involving a displacement of the nasal septum.


It is most frequently caused by impact trauma, such as by a blow to the face. It can also be a congenital disorder.


The nasal septum is the membranous ridge of cartilage in the nose that separates the nasal cavity into the two nostrils. Normally, the septum lies centrally, and thus the nasal passages are symmetrical. A deviated septum is an abnormal condition in which the top of the cartilaginous ridge leans to the left or the right, causing obstruction of the affected nasal passage. The condition can result in poor drainage of the sinuses, leading to frequent infections or the growth of nasal polyps. Patients can also complain of difficulty breathing easily, or of sleeping disorders such as snoring or sleep apnea.

It is common for nasal septa to depart from the exact centerline; the septum is only considered deviated if the shift is substantial or is adversely affecting the patient. Many people with a deviation are unaware they have it until some discomfort is produced. But by itself a deviated septum can go undetected for years and thus be without any real need for correction.


In most cases a deviated septum can be corrected with a minor surgical procedure known as a septoplasty, which enters through the nostrils and cuts away the obtruding matter. The surgery is performed quickly but the patient may take several days to recover.

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