Exploring the clinical value and implications of routine pathological examination of septoplasty specimens


  • Presented at the Triological Society Combined Sections Meeting, San Diego, California, U.S.A., April 18–22, 2021.

  • The authors have no funding, financial relationships, or conflicts of interest to disclose.



During septoplasty, otherwise normal cartilage and bone are removed and routinely submitted for pathologic examination. According to the College of American Pathologists, however, the examination of bone and cartilage from septoplasty and rhinoplasty may be left to the pathologist's discretion. We explored the processing of tissues removed during septoplasty, examining the clinical value and implications of current practices.

Study Design:

Retrospective chart review.


Our database was searched for septoplasty (CPT code 30520) procedures performed specifically for the indication of nasal obstruction.


Five hundred sixteen consecutive cases from 15 surgeons spanning a 2-year period were identified. In the majority of cases, septal tissues removed during surgery were submitted to pathology. The majority of cases (>90%) involved septoplasty performed in conjunction with another procedure, most commonly addressing the inferior turbinates. All septal specimens received gross examination by a pathologist, and a smaller fraction were also examined histologically. Gross findings included the qualitative appearance of the specimen and dimensional measurements of bone and cartilage fragments. No abnormalities were identified (by gross or histologic examination) in any of the specimens. Associated costs included specimen handling, storage, and pathology fees.


In our health care system, it is common practice to submit tissues removed during septoplasty for pathologic examination. This study demonstrates that routine evaluation of septal tissues following surgery for obstruction has no clinical value whatsoever, and is associated with direct and indirect costs. Given the current health care climate, this practice should be further scrutinized and reconsidered.