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Nasal septal deviation in the pediatric and adult populations

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March 1, 2011
by Shari D. Reitzen, MD, Wayne Chung, MD, and Anil R. Shah, MD


A significant proportion of the population has nasal septal deviation of varying degrees. Recent reports of such deviation occurring at younger ages suggest a congenital etiology. To the best of our knowledge, no previous clinical studies have compared the septal deviation of adult and pediatric populations with a uniform measure that focuses on the degree of deviation. We retrospectively analyzed computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans obtained from 81 patients who had undergone head and neck imaging for a variety of reasons. These subjects were divided into four age groups: younger than 4 months; 4 months to less than 5 years; 5 to 15 years; and more than 15 years. We used a measure of tortuosity to examine and compare nasal septal deviation among the different age groups. The tortuosity of the septum was measured at four precise points along the length of the septum on thin-section sinus CT and MRI. Tortuosity was defined as the ratio of the “actual” length of the septum to the “ideal” length of the septum, which was defined as the length of a straight line drawn from the superior to the inferior aspect of the septum. We found that subjects younger than 5 years of age exhibited significantly less tortuosity (p ≤ 0.017459) than did the older children and the adults. Therefore, we conclude that nasal septal deviation occurs at a higher frequency in older children and in adults when calculations of tortuosity are used as a measure. Our data may suggest that a noncongenital etiology is responsible for nasal septal deviation. However, given that the growth of the septum continues throughout childhood, our results do not preclude the possibility of a genetic predisposition to the later development of a deviated nasal septum.

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