Rhinoplasty and Septoplasty Difference

March 21, 2022

People sometimes confuse the terms rhinoplasty and septoplasty and use them interchangeably when referring to what is more commonly called a nose job. However, the two are not the same. They are sometimes performed in conjunction with one another.

One is a more cosmetic procedure that is sometimes done for medical reasons while the other is a medical procedure sometimes done for cosmetic reasons. Are you wondering which procedure is which? Let’s take a look at the basics of the two procedures.


Rhinoplasty Defined

Rhinoplasty is done when the shape of your nose needs to be changed. It’s the procedure most people think of when they think of a nose job. This procedure can change the bone in the upper portion of the nose, the cartilage in the lower portion of the nose, the skin of the nose, or a combination of the three.

Rhinoplasty is typically done for cosmetic reasons. The main goal for most people getting rhinoplasty is to change the look of their nose. Sometimes, rhinoplasty is done to improve breathing—if nostrils need to be widened, for example. A rhinoplasty can be performed through the nostrils (ie scarless), with a little incision in the skin between the nostrils, or with a dorsal preservation technique.

Septoplasty Defined

Septoplasty is performed primarily to help with breathing function. In this procedure, a deviated septum—the cartilage that divides the nasal cavity into 2 passages—is repaired. People with a deviated septum often have difficulty breathing or have issues with chronic sinus infections.

Sometimes the septum is misshapen to the point that it makes the exterior of the nose look out of shape. When that is the case, a septoplasty is a cosmetic procedure as well as a medical one.

When Both Are Needed

There are occasions when a surgeon deems both a rhinoplasty and a septoplasty necessary. For example, if the nostrils need to be widened and the septum needs to be straightened, both procedures will be performed during the same surgery. Doing both procedures during the same surgery can be beneficial to the patient as they will only have one recovery period, whereas had the surgeries been completed separately there would be recovery periods from both procedures—not to mention the financial benefits of having both procedures at once.

Sometimes during the performance of a rhinoplasty, particularly a revision rhinoplasty, additional cartilage is necessary to help shape the nasal structure and appearance. In that case, a septoplasty may be performed, even if the septum is perfectly straight.

Final Thoughts

Many people mistakenly think that rhinoplasty and septoplasty are interchangeable terms for the same procedure. They aren’t. Rhinoplasty addresses the appearance of the nose while septoplasty addresses the internal cartilage and bone of the nose. Typically, rhinoplasty is considered a cosmetic procedure while septoplasty is considered a medically necessary procedure.

The procedures can be done separately, or they can be performed together in one surgical session. There are benefits to having both performed during the same session if both procedures are necessary. Recovery times, as well as financial considerations, are reasons to consider having both procedures at once if you find the need to have both procedures.

Learn more about rhinoplasty at UCSF.

AnchorSee photos of before and after rhinoplasty done at UCSF.

Read other Facial Plastics blogs.