Q: Dr. Eppley, Two years ago, I had a septoplasty procedure with turbinate reduction due to a diagnosis of moderate sleep apnea. It turns out my septum was severely deviated, essentially blocking air at the back of one nostril. Shortly after surgery, I could breathe and smell things much better. Soon thereafter, everything has returned to pre-operative functionality, if not even worse. The surgeon I went to is an ENT physician, and refused to do rhinoplasty. I was advised by physicians later that a rhinoplasty procedure likely would have improved my nasal function significantly, simply by lifting the tip slightly. Would I be a candidate? I am concerned, because others have told me it’s a jaw issue and I would need orthognathic surgery.

A: The rhinoplasty procedure that you refer is two-fold and relates to the only two external (outer) nasal procedures that are known to improve nasal airway flow, spreader grafts of the middle vault and tip rotation. While both may be able to improve nasal airflow I would have no confidence that they would substantially improve sleep apnea. The only facial procedure that can reliably improve sleep apnea are jaw procedures that pull the face forward, particularly the lower jaw with the attachment of the base of the tongue, to open the posterior airway. But given the magnitude of orthognathic surgery it is understandable why other effort (nasal surgery) may be on interest to explore first.

Dr. Barry Eppley

Indianapolis, Indiana