Recovery Series: Recovery from Rhinoplasty

Dr. Sacha Obaid, Board-Certified Plastic Surgeon Serving Dallas, Plano, Southlake, and Nearby Fort Worth, Texas

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You’ve decided to make changes to your nose, whether for aesthetic or medical purposes. The rhinoplasty procedure you undergo is unique to you, in that the exact steps your surgeon takes to perform it depend on the anatomy of your nose and your goals for the procedure. However, while the procedure itself can be performed in different ways, the recovery process is similar for most people.

On the Day of Surgery

When you undergo a rhinoplasty you'll receive either a general or a local anesthetic, depending on what you and your doctor decide together. If you have a local anesthetic, you can go home on the same day. If you have a general anesthetic, and if you have some health issues that may affect your recovery (which will be reviewed by your surgeon ahead of time), you may need to stay overnight for monitoring. Either way, be sure to arrange for someone to drive you home and help care for you for the first couple of days.

The First Few Weeks After Surgery

To help your nose heal correctly, and to provide protection, your surgeon may place a splint on your nose at the end of the surgery. They might also place stents inside your nose to help with fluid drainage and to reduce swelling. During the first week, you can expect some pain in your nose, as well as headaches. For most people, over-the-counter medications recommended by your surgeon are effective at treating the pain. Your nose might also feel congested due to swelling and the placement of the stents. Don’t be concerned by some strong bruising around your nose and beneath your eyes. Most of the bruising and some of the swelling will be gone by the end of the first couple of weeks. Bed rest is advised for the first few of days of your recovery from a rhinoplasty. While you're resting, it's important to make sure your head is higher than your chest, as this helps reduce swelling and bleeding.

Getting Back to Everyday Life

After a couple of days, you can slowly start to resume your normal activities, but there are some precautions to take to help your nose heal and prevent possible damage. All of these precautions apply for at least the first few weeks after your surgery.

  • Be sure to strictly take any antibiotics as they were prescribed to you by your surgeon. Preventing infection is an important part of recovery.
  • Avoid strenuous and high-impact activities, such as jogging, aerobics, bending, and heavy lifting.
  • Gentle exercise prescribed by your surgeon, such as walking, is important to help prevent blood clot formation.
  • Avoid anything that involves touching your nose or putting some kind of force or pressure on it. For example, don't blow your nose, and try to avoid sneezing and coughing.
  • Avoid wearing clothes that have to be pulled over your head.
  • While your bandages are still on, take baths instead of showers to prevent them from getting wet.
  • Maintain a high-fiber diet to avoid constipation, as straining to have a bowel movement can put pressure on your nose.
  • Try to also maintain a low-sodium diet, as this can help reduce the duration of swelling.
  • If you wear glasses or sunglasses, use cheek rests to prevent the glasses from putting pressure on your nose.
  • Use a strong sunscreen—at least 30 SPF—whenever you go outside. It's good practice to use sunscreen all the time, but it's particularly important while your nose is healing, in order to prevent skin damage and possible discoloration.

Due to the appearance of the bruising and the need to protect your nose from anything that may cause damage, it's advisable to take the first couple of weeks off work, if possible. By the end of week two, your nose should be looking and feeling more normal, and people you meet for the first time are unlikely to note anything unusual about your appearance. However, you will likely feel some numbness and occasionally other strange sensations in your nose for several weeks.

recovery from rhinoplastyWeek One Follow-Up Visit: Seeing Your Results

One week after your rhinoplasty, you'll most likely return to your surgeon for a follow-up visit. The stent and splints will be removed, and you'll have your first chance to see what your new nose looks like! While much of the swelling will have gone down, there will still be some, so your results at this stage aren't definitive. If your nose doesn't look like you expected it to, don't worry; it still has some healing to do, and it will continue to change and improve in appearance over the next weeks and months. You should call your doctor if you sustain any damage to your nose, if you show any signs of infection, or if pain or swelling extends beyond the normal range.

Four to Six Weeks After Surgery

Around 3 to 4 weeks after surgery, about 70% of the swelling will have dissipated, and by 6 weeks, up to 85% of the swelling should be gone. At this point your nose will look much more normal, but depending on the kind of surgery you had, there may still be some healing to do. Rhinoplasty healing is typically quite slow. If you’re still experiencing noticeable swelling at this stage, let your surgeon know. Most people can resume normal activity levels by now, including high-impact exercise, but contact sports should be avoided for longer. Be sure to ease back into your pre-surgery schedule. If your surgeon advises you to continue avoiding these kinds of activities, do so.

One Year Later

During the first year of recovery from rhinoplasty, you'll likely notice that your nose is more sensitive to certain things. For example, allergies may worsen, the skin on your nose might be more prone to acne, and your nose may run more if irritated. As well as this, heavy exertion may cause slight swelling. These issues may last for several months, but they’ll lessen as residual swelling subsides. Like all facial features, your nose does change in appearance as you age, so it's not always easy to say definitively when you've finished your recovery from rhinoplasty.. At one year, however, you can typically consider that your nose is completely healed and won't change significantly in appearance as a result of the surgery. Keeping in mind that healing from a rhinoplasty is a slow process and that your surgeon is always available to answer questions and address concerns, enjoy this period of discovering your new nose!