Rhinoplasty (RI-no-plas-tee), also referred to as nose surgery, is a surgical procedure that can shorten or lengthen your nose, change its shape or contour, narrow the nostrils, or lift and define the tip.When planning rhinoplasty, your surgeon considers your features, the skin on your nose and what you would like changed. The upper portion of the nose is bone, and the lower portion is cartilage. Rhinoplasty can modify bone, cartilage or both. Talk with your surgeon about what rhinoplasty can achieve for you.
- Straighten the bridge of your nose
- Reshape the tip of your nose
- Reduce or add to the overall size of your nose
- Change the angle between your nose and upper lip
Rhinoplasty can also repair defects following an injury, correct a birth defect or improve some breathing difficulties.
As with any major surgery, rhinoplasty carries risks such as bleeding, infection and an adverse reaction to the anesthesia. Other possible risks specific to rhinoplasty include:
- Recurring nosebleeds
- Difficulty breathing through your nose
- Numbness in and around your nose
- Possibility of an uneven-looking nose
- Pain, discoloration or swelling that may persist
- Your medical history. Your doctor asks questions about conditions you have or have had, as well as any medications you take. If you have a bleeding disorder, such as hemophilia, you may not be a candidate for rhinoplasty.
- A physical examination. Your doctor conducts a complete physical examination, including any laboratory tests, such as blood tests. He or she also inspects your skin and the inside and outside of your nose. The physical exam helps your doctor determine what changes need to be made and how your physical features — for example, the thickness of your skin or the strength of the cartilage at the end of your nose — may affect your results.
- Photographs. Someone from your doctor’s office takes photographs of your nose from different angles. Your doctor uses these photos for before-and-after assessments, reference during surgery and long-term reviews.
- A discussion of your expectations. You and your doctor should talk about your motivations and expectations. He or she explains what rhinoplasty can and can’t do for you and what your results might be.
Before your procedure, you may also need to:
- Avoid certain medications. Avoid medications containing aspirin or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) for two weeks before and after surgery. These medications may increase bleeding. Take only those medications approved or prescribed by your surgeon.
- If you smoke, stop smoking. Smoking slows the healing process after surgery.
- Make arrangements for the day of the surgery. For the first 24 hours after sedation, you may have lapses of memory, slowed reaction time and impaired judgment. Therefore, arrange for someone to drive you home if you’re having an outpatient procedure. Also, arrange for a family member or friend to stay with you a night or two to help with personal care tasks as your recover from surgery.
How Rhinoplasty is performed
Rhinoplasty is usually done inside the nose. Your surgeon readjusts the bone and cartilage underneath your skin. The surgeon usually makes cuts inside the nostrils. Sometimes he or she makes cuts in the septum between the nostrils. Then your surgeon separates the skin from the underlying bone or cartilage and mucous membranes, and follows a series of steps to cut, trim or build up (augment) the nasal bone or cartilage.
Your surgeon can augment your nasal bone or cartilage in several ways, depending on how much needs to be added, the structure of your nose and available materials. For small changes, the surgeon may use cartilage harvested from deeper inside your nose or from your ear. For larger requirements, the surgeon can use implants or bone grafting. Bone grafting is a procedure in which bone material (the graft) is inserted into another bone (the host bone) to enhance the host bone.
During the procedure
- Local anesthesia. This type of anesthesia is usually used in an outpatient setting and is limited to a specific area of your body. Your doctor injects a pain-numbing medication into your nasal tissues and sedates you with medication injected through an intravenous (IV) line. This makes you groggy but not fully asleep.
- General anesthesia. You receive the drug (anesthetic) by inhaling it or through an IV line — a catheter placed in a vein in your hand, neck or chest. General anesthesia affects your entire body and induces a temporary state of unconsciousness.
After the surgery, you’ll be in a recovery room, where the staff monitors you for any complications. You might leave later that day or, if the procedure is done in a hospital, you might stay overnight.
To further decrease the chances of bleeding and swelling, your doctor may ask that you follow these precautions for several weeks after surgery:
- Avoid strenuous activities such as aerobics and jogging.
- Don’t swim.
- Don’t blow your nose.
- Avoid foods that require heavy chewing.
- Avoid large facial expressions, such as smiling or laughing.
- Brush your teeth gently to limit movement of your upper lip.
- Wear clothes that fasten in the front; don’t pull clothing, such as shirts or sweaters, over your head.
In addition, don’t rest eyeglasses or sunglasses on your nose for at least four weeks after the surgery, to prevent pressure on your nose. You can use cheek rests, or tape the glasses to your forehead until your nose has healed.Also, avoid exposing your skin to the sun for two to three months after surgery. Too much sun may cause permanent irregular discoloration in the skin of your nose.
Some temporary swelling, black-and-blue discoloration of your eyelids and numbness can occur for two to three weeks after nasal surgery. Rarely, this may last up to six months, and subtle swelling may take a year to resolve entirely. Ice packs or cold compresses can help reduce swelling and discoloration around your eyes.
Because of the slow healing process, you might not see the final results of your surgery for up to a year.