Rhinoplasty is surgery to repair or reshape the nose.
Cosmetic nose surgery
Rhinoplasty can be performed under local or general anesthesia, depending on the exact procedure and the person's preference. It is performed in a surgeon's office, a hospital, or an outpatient surgery center. Complex procedures may require a short hospital stay. The procedure usually takes 1 to 2 hours. It may take longer.
With local anesthesia, the nose and the area around it is numbed. You will probably be lightly sedated, but awake during the surgery (relaxed and not feeling pain). General anesthesia allows you to sleep through the operation.
The surgery is usually done through a cut (incision) made inside the nostrils. In some cases, the cut is made from outside, around the base of the nose. This type of cut is used to perform work on the tip of the nose or if you need a cartilage graft.
A splint (metal or plastic) may be placed on the outside of the nose. This helps maintain the new shape of the bone when the surgery is finished. Soft plastic splints or nasal packs also may be placed in the nostrils. This helps keep the dividing wall between the air passages (septum) stable.
Why the Procedure Is Performed
Rhinoplasty is one of the most common plastic surgery procedures. It can be used to:
- Reduce or increase the size of the nose
- Change the shape of the tip or the nasal bridge
- Narrow the opening of the nostrils
- Change the angle between the nose and the upper lip
- Correct a birth defect or injury
- Help relieve some breathing problems
Nose surgery is considered elective when it is done for cosmetic reasons. In these cases, the purpose is to change the shape of the nose to one that the person finds more desirable. Many surgeons prefer to perform cosmetic nose surgery after the nasal bone has finished growing. This is around age 14 or 15 for girls and a bit later for boys.
Risks of anesthesia and surgery in general are:
- Reactions to medications, problems breathing
- Bleeding, infection, or bruising
After surgery, tiny blood vessels that have burst may appear as tiny red spots on the skin surface. These are usually minor, but are permanent. There are no visible scars if the rhinoplasty is performed from inside the nose. If the procedure narrows flared nostrils, there may be small scars at the base of the nose that are not usually visible.
In rare cases, a second procedure is needed to fix a minor deformity.
After the Procedure
You will usually go home on the same day as your surgery.
Right after surgery, your nose and face will be swollen and painful. Headaches are common.
The nasal packing is usually removed in 3 to 5 days, after which you will feel more comfortable.
Full recovery takes several weeks.
Healing is a slow and gradual process. The tip of the nose may have some swelling and numbness for months. You may not be able to see the final results for up to a year.
Menick FJ. Aesthetic nasal reconstruction. In: Neligan PC, ed. Plastic Surgery. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2013:chap 6.
Tardy ME Jr, Thomas JR. Rhinoplasty, Sclagani AP. In: Flint PW, Haughey BH, Lund V, et al., eds. Cummings Otolaryngology: Head & Neck Surgery. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Mosby; 2015:chap 34.
Reviewed By: Hebe Molmenti, MD, PhD, private practice specializing in plastic and reconstructive surgery, Baltimore, MD. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.