Septoplasty vs rhinoplasty: Which nose surgery do you need?

The nose is one of the most important organs in the center of the face that both helps you breathe and alters the way you look. Unfortunately, in some cases, whether because of external reasons or from birth, you might have concerns with your nose. The solution is either septoplasty vs rhinoplasty.

You might be wondering which one is necessary for your needs as it might be a little bit confusing. These two surgeries have overlapping features that the techniques, aims, and surgical procedures might look similar in some ways.

Then, what is the difference between septoplasty vs rhinoplasty? What can rhinoplasty change while septoplasty cannot? How could you know if you need only one of them or a combination? Here, we will talk about everything in detail.

What is the difference between septoplasty and rhinoplasty?

Septoplasty and rhinoplasty are different nose surgeries that have some similarities and overlapping procedures. People might confuse these two different surgeries when they use the phrase “nose surgery” since it refers to both.

First of all, in any of these nose surgeries, surgeons consider both nose shape and function. The main difference between rhinoplasty and septoplasty is how much they pay attention to each and how they achieve that.

In septoplasty surgery, the main goal of the surgery is to fix breathing issues properly. Most of the time to achieve that shifted separator wall between your nasal cavities or nostrils is reshaped.

In rhinoplasty surgery, there are lots of goals that can be achieved regarding your aesthetic needs and desires. The external appearance is highlighted during a rhinoplasty operation.

One other main difference between these surgeries is that, while it might be necessary to get a septoplasty surgery to have a healthy life, having a rhinoplasty surgery is mostly optional

We will see further in detail, starting with the purpose of these two different surgeries.

Purpose: What does rhinoplasty vs septoplasty aim to achieve?

While they are both nose surgeries, their purposes differ. The purpose of rhinoplasty surgery is to give you a balanced nose with the other elements in your face. While septoplasty surgery will make your nose function better which contributes to your breathing.

The meaning of the words “septo” and “rhino” could make you understand the purposes better.

  • “Septo-” refers to the separator wall between your nose; the septum. When it is displaced you might have trouble breathing. Septoplasty is the correction of the septum.
  • “Rhino-“ means nose and reshaping the nose in a more general concept is called rhinoplasty. Aesthetical concerns are addressed in rhinoplasty surgery.

All in general we gathered some of the common concerns in this septoplasty vs rhinoplasty table.

Septoplasty ConcernsRhinoplasty Concerns

Septal deviation

Nasal blockage

Enlarged turbinates

Nasal bridge; shape, length

Nasal tip; definition, symmetry

Collapsed, damaged nostrils

As you can see, rhinoplasty focuses on multiple aspects to create facial harmony while septoplasty has a narrow area to work on. Because of that, the procedures of septoplasty and rhinoplasty are also highly different from each other. The next heading will be comparing their procedures.

Operating room: A look at septoplasty vs rhinoplasty

Septoplasty and rhinoplasty procedures are typically performed under general or local anesthesia, so you will feel nothing during the operation.

During a septoplasty surgery, a surgeon deals with the septum. If it is displaced on one side of your nose they straighten your nasal septum. Sometimes the deviation occurs because of overgrowing tissues in your nose called nasal polyps. Surgeons remove these obstructions to open the nasal passage. A septoplasty surgery takes around an hour.

During rhinoplasty surgery, surgeons deal with every part of your nose by reshaping nasal bones or adding cartilage grafts into the nose. Grafting or suturing are general techniques used in this procedure. It is mostly more challenging than septoplasty as the results are hard to predict and call for artistic skills. A rhinoplasty surgery might take 2 to 4 hours.

In each procedure, surgeons might lift your nose up (open approach) or could make small incisions inside the nostrils (closed approach). Additionally in septoplasty, a tiny camera can be used to operate on your nose (endoscopic surgery) (1).

In some cases what you need is a combination of these two procedures called septorhinoplasty. It gives you a cosmetic improvement while also addressing any deviation in your nose. A procedure called turbinate reduction can be performed during septorhinoplasty to make your nose look and function better.

As the procedures look challenging in words, performing these nose surgeries without any complication requires highly skilled and experienced surgeons.

Risks and complications of septoplasty vs rhinoplasty

Any nose surgery will include some mild and severe risks but most of the time, these risks are highly avoidable in the hands of a skillful surgeon. In general, both surgeries include these risks:

  • Excessive bleeding
  • Scarring
  • Temporary/ permanent numbness
  • Weakened smell
  • Infection
  • Allergic reaction to anesthesia
  • Poorly healing structures
  • Need for revision

Apart from these risks, septoplasty or septorhinoplasty surgery also includes the risk of septal perforation. When your operation has poorly performed the septum in your nose could be weakened. In the long term, this can result in a hole between your nostrils.

As much as some of these complications are prevented by your surgeon, some of them occur as a result of patients not following recovery guidelines.

Recovery time: septoplasty vs rhinoplasty recovery

eptoplasty vs rhinoplasty recovery processes are not completely different from each other. The main difference between them though can be said as the duration of the recovery. While septoplasty might heal faster, rhinoplasty generally takes longer to heal.

Most of the time, both surgeries are outpatient procedures, meaning you can leave the hospital the day you got the surgery. After the procedure, it is normal to have mild pain, swelling, and bruising. You might have tapings and external nasal splints on your nose.

The initial recovery time for a septoplasty surgery is around 4 days, while it can take 7-10 days for a rhinoplasty. During this time you are expected to rest and go easy on your nose.

Usually, it might take 3 weeks to return to your daily life completely after septoplasty surgery. While it can take 6 or 10 weeks before you start exercising or mildly being active after a rhinoplasty operation.

After septoplasty surgery, it could take 3 months for the residual swelling to be gone and for full recovery to be achieved. On the other hand, only after a year passed since your rhinoplasty surgery, full results would be visible.

Results: What can you expect from each procedure?

Both surgeries will improve your quality of life for sure in different ways either making your nose look or function better.

People around you might be surprised to see nothing has changed when you claim you had nose surgery, but only because it was septoplasty. However, without even you implying it they can tell if you had rhinoplasty surgery. 

After septoplasty surgery, you should expect to breathe better without any or less obstruction in your nose and no change visually. In a study made with 51 patients, the nose breathing score improved as high as 65% after a septoplasty surgery (2).

On the contrary, a rhinoplasty nose job will improve the way your nose looks. Depending on your preference and needs; a reduced dorsal hump, defined nasal tip or improved nasal contours are expected.

Costs and Insurance

The cost of the procedure highly depends on different factors such as the location of the clinic, the expertise of your surgeon, and the needs of the patient. But most of the time, a septoplasty will cost you less than a rhinoplasty surgery and insurance will most likely cover your septoplasty surgeries.

The average cost of septoplasty surgery around the world is 2,200-5,500$. If you have proper health insurance, then your septoplasty expenses are covered since this is a health concern issue.

The average cost of rhinoplasty is 2,500- 20,000$ around the world. The cost of the price varies and might go up super high because of the complexity of the procedure. In some rhinoplasty surgeries, your insurance might cover the price partially if you possess any functional issues.

Choosing the right procedure: factors to consider

If you want to have a better-defined nose tip, contoured nasal bridge, and a smaller or bigger nose what you need is a rhinoplasty surgery. Additionally, you should also look for rhinoplasty surgery if your nostrils block your breathing. Generally, rhinoplasty is better if you want to improve your facial features.

If you do not have any concerns about your nasal shape, your nostrils look fine (not collapsed), and yet you still have breathing difficulties, then what you need is probably septoplasty surgery. However, it is hard to tell if you really need septoplasty surgery so make sure to consult an experienced plastic surgeon first.

If you need a combination of cosmetic procedures and a correction of a deviated septum, then what you need is septorhinoplasty. For example, you might need septorhinoplasty surgery if your nose is broken or severely damaged.


(1) Watters C, Brar S, Yapa S. Septoplasty. In: StatPearls. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; November 8, 2022. Link

(2) Dąbrowska-Bień J, Skarżyński H, Górski SF, Skarżyński PH. Quality of Life in Patients with Nasal Obstruction after Septoplasty: A Single Institution Prospective Observational Study. Int Arch Otorhinolaryngol. 2021;25(4):e575-e579. Published 2021 Feb 19. doi:10.1055/s-0040-1722162 Link


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