The term "rhinoplasty" is often used as a catch-all phrase for any surgical work done to the nose, but there are differences between this and septoplasty. Rhinoplasties and septoplasties can both serve functional and cosmetic purposes, but they have distinct definitions and uses.
Septoplasties deal with only one portion of the nose: the septum. This is the part of the nose that separates the left and right naval cavities from each other. Most septums split the naval cavities in half, which leads to the easy passage of air through the cavities. However, if the septum becomes deviated, a term that means too far to one side, patients can experience problems, including difficulties in breathing, loud snoring, or other troubles with sleeping properly.
A septoplasty is usually a functional medical procedure. While it may have positive effects on the appearance of a patient's nose, its primary purpose is usually to alleviate breathing problems. Becuase the procedure is primarily medical in nature and is typically less intensive and invasive than a rhinoplasty, a septoplasty is often the lesser expensive nose operation when considering cost.
After administering general or local anesthesia to a patient, a surgeon cuts into the lining of the septum and adjusts the underlying cartilage. While a septoplasty is a relatively straightforward procedure that usually takes less than an hour, it can lead to significant side effects, especially in the week immediately after the surgery.
Rhinoplasty, which is commonly referred to as a nose job, is a more general term for a variety of procedures used by surgeons to create a well-functioning or aesthetically pleasing nose. A rhinoplasty can be medically necessary for many reasons. One of the most common is skin cancer. Patients who have undergone surgery to remove a cancerous part of their skin may need a reconstructive rhinoplasty to restore its natural shape.
A somewhat less common reason for needing a rhinoplasty is trauma; if a person's nose suffers blunt trauma, it may be necessary to reconstruct the underlying structure through the use of a rhinoplasty.
There are certain genetic defects that can cause a nose to not function properly. A cleft palate is an example of this. These patients need rhinoplasties in order to restore a healthy and functional form to their noses. A rhinoplasty is generally a more complex procedure than a septoplasty and often involves moving cartilage, fat, or skin from a "donor site" somewhere else on a patient and placing in the nasal area.
Many rhinoplasties are performed not for the functional reasons explained above, but simply for cosmetic reasons. Rhinoplasties can be used to achieve a variety of aesthetic goals, including better symmetry or the flattening of the "bridge" of the nose. Because rhinoplasties are cosmetic in nature, the cost of the procedure is typically more than the cost of a septoplasty.
Both a septoplasty and rhinoplasty are serious medical procedures that require the advice of a doctor, who can also discuss the cost of a nose job. Generally speaking, septoplasties serve the specific, functional purpose of correcting a deviated septum, while a rhinoplasty can refer to a number of techniques to change the form of a nose, often for aesthetic reasons.