Teenagers and Rhinoplasty: A Guide for Parents

Umang Mehta, MD

Article by
Bay Area Facial Plastic Surgeon

Teenagers and Rhinoplasty: A guide for parents 

What is rhinoplasty?
Rhinoplasty refers to surgery intended to reshape the appearance of the nose. It is often combined with septoplasty, to straighten a deviated septum, if needed.

What are the reasons for performing this procedure?
Rhinoplasty and/or septoplasty may be performed for several reasons:
1) to restore the appearance of the nose after trauma
2) the patient is simply dissatisfied with the shape of the nose, most commonly due to a hump, hooked appearance, or overly wide nose
3) to improve breathing in patients with a deviated nasal septum: symptoms may include mouth breathing, noisy breathing, and snoring

What is the appropriate age at which teenagers may undergo the procedure?
In general, girls should wait at least two years following menarche (the onset of menstrual periods). The average age at which girls are candidates for surgery is 16 years. In boys, we typically recommend waiting until age 17 or 18, as growth of the facial bones continues until this time. These ages are usually appropriate in terms of emotional maturity as well.

How is the procedure performed?
The procedure may be comfortably performed under deep sedation or general anesthesia and typically takes approximately 2-3 hours. A board-certified anesthesiologist should perform the sedation in these cases. The procedure may be undertaken using either an open (a tiny incision on the columella, between the nostrils) or closed approach (no external incision), depending on the patient’s needs. The cartilage and bone of the nose are carefully refined using sutures and surgical instruments.

What is the typical recovery period following the surgery?
Patients awaken with a splint on their nose, which they wear for 6-7 days. The nose is usually quite congested for 4-5 days, after which time patients typically begin breathing through the nose. Bruising and swelling around the eyes are common and typically last around 7-10 days following surgery. Patients may return to school at this time. Pain is generally very mild during the entire recovery period.

What are the possible risks of surgery?
The possible risks include bleeding or infection, both of which occur less than 1% of the time. Long-term, there is the small possibility of dissatisfaction with the appearance of the nose or the presence of a small visible or palpable irregularity. When performed by a board certified facial plastic surgeon or plastic surgeon who specializes in and performs a large volume of rhinoplasty, the results of surgery are generally quite excellent.