What do I need to know about rhinoplasty recovery?


Rhinoplasty Recovery

  • Is a little different for everybody, but there are common themes. Whether it is an open or closed rhinoplasty, you can expect to have dull aching and headache for 2-3 days. Severe pain is uncommon. Out of the common cosmetic procedures I do, rhinoplasty patients recover one of the fastest
  • Pain - Narcotic pain medicine is usually needed for the first 2-3 days and then tapers off from there to regular Tylenol or Ibuprofen
  • Congestion - The most obvious and annoying symptom after rhinoplasty is congestion
    • This is because of swelling on the inside and outside of your nose
    • The internal swelling goes down in the first 2 weeks after surgery and so your breathing issues mostly resolve by this time
    • I almost never use packing inside the nose
    • Some patients who had major breathing problems before surgery will often notice an improvement in breathing within the first week of surgery
    • Others may take some more time to start noticing positive changes
    • Those of you who did not have breathing problems to begin with will probably notice this congestion more
  • My patients use saline spray and prescription ointment in their nose several times a day to help with dryness and crusting
    • Crusts develop inside inevitably, but this will keep them soft so that they come out more easily
  • Your surgeon will tell you when you can blow your nose
  • Bruising on your nose, cheeks and eyes is common and can last up to 2 weeks
  • Though you may feel like going back to work after a few days, most people take off work for 2 weeks because of the potential for bruising, and I generally advise it
  • Now, remember you’ll have an external cast on your nose for 7 days.
  • Some patients just go into work with the external cast on and all with no shame. Other’s want to make sure other’s can’t tell at all.
  • Now, you wouldn’t want to have your wedding the month after surgery, but most people won’t notice you’ve had a rhinoplasty after 2-3 weeks.
  • Swelling
    • Swelling is what takes the longest
    • I find about 75% of the swelling is gone 3 months after surgery
    • At one month you will definitely see the shape changes you desired and this will continue to improve dramatically until 3 months post-op
    • If you have a big event, like a wedding, I generally use this 3 months rule only because of the swelling
    • Your nose will feel strange for the first month. Numbness of the tip and smiling will feel odd, but this will go away
  • Things you can do for the first few weeks…
    • Avoid bending, lifting over 10 lbs, exercise, or anything that gets your blood pressure up too much. It will just increase swelling.
    • Get a lot of sleep but get out and walk
    • Eat well and try to avoid staring at your nose in the mirror and over-analyzing small changes because things will be very swollen and definitely not perfect until a majority of the swelling goes down.

M. Carlisle, MD


Article by
Des Moines Plastic Surgeon