Correction of nasal obstruction due to nasal valve collapse

Published on 05/05/2015 by admin

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Last modified 05/05/2015

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Chapter 21 Correction of nasal obstruction due to nasal valve collapse


Airway obstruction or difficulty breathing through the nose is one of the most frequent complaints presented to an otolaryngologist. Nasal septal deviation and turbinate hypertrophy are easily identified as areas of anatomic obstruction. One area that can be overlooked as an etiology for obstruction is an incompetent nasal valve. Nasal valve obstruction can markedly reduce airflow through the anterior nostril. This reduction in flow can contribute to snoring. A patient who complains of snoring is indicating that something more serious may be occurring. Snoring can present as a symptom of obstructive sleep apnea. Many people who snore also admit to excessive daytime sleepiness and fatigue.1

Incompetence of the nasal valve, either internal or external, may arise from several factors. Congenital weakness of the nasal sidewalls may allow for easier collapse. As age progresses nasal ptosis and sagging of the sidewalls can occur. This can contribute to nasal obstruction. An anatomically narrow nasal valve may contribute to nasal valve collapse, which can be congenital or present years after cosmetic rhinoplasty surgery.

Anything that increases the resistance of nasal airflow can be markedly perceived as obstruction by the patient. During rhinoplasty, specifically hump reduction, the internal nasal valve can be interrupted. Interruption of the attachment of the septum to the upper lateral cartilages allows for collapse of the weakened cartilage. The interrupted support for the upper lateral cartilage can cause it to fall towards the dorsal septal edge, narrowing the internal nasal valve. The external nasal valve can be weakened by overzealous resection of the lower lateral cartilage. Scar tissue formation can also contribute to weakening of the remaining alar cartilage. A weakened alar sidewall with less support can easily collapse and obstruct the anterior nostril.

The internal valve is the area in which the septum articulates with the lower border of the upper lateral cartilage (Fig. 21.1A). The angle of this area is normally 10° to 15°. Minimal reduction in this angle can substantially restrict nasal airflow. The external nasal valve is an area composed of the alar or lower lateral cartilage with its associated cutaneous support as a mobile alar wall (Fig. 21.1B). It is bordered superiorly by the caudal edge of the upper lateral cartilages, inferiorly by the nasal floor, and posteriorly by the inferior turbinate. Laterally it is supported by the pyriform aperture of the maxilla and fibrofatty tissue of the ala.2

In consideration of surgical approaches to correct nasal obstruction, all possible causes must be entertained. Correction of septal deviation alone may not alleviate obstruction. Valvular effects may equal or surpass a deviation of the septum as the cause of airflow obstruction. In an excellent study by Constantain it was shown that septoplasty in addition to internal and external valve reconstruction offered the best relief in nasal obstruction. This combined approach offered significantly improved airflow in comparison to septoplasty alone.3


This is by no means a complete review of all of the techniques that are available to surgically address incompetent valves. However, it will serve as a guideline of the most commonly accepted techniques.


The spreader graft as described by Sheen in 19845 has been the most common approach to correct internal nasal valve collapse. Several adaptations to this technique have been reported in the literature.69 Each offers a varying twist of the standard that may accommodate specific circumstances pertaining to individual patients. An open approach is preferable as it allows superior visualization of anatomy.