Breathing Problems After Rhinoplasty, Septoplasty, and Turbinate Reduction?

I had my surgery about 10 days ago and I'm so nervous I made my breathing worst. I can only breath through my mouth now. I had septo, rhino, and turbinate reduction to improve my breathing but now it's worst! Could it be from swelling?

Doctor Answers 12

More Congestion After Turbinate and Septum Surgery

There are a number of things that can cause increased congestion following internal nose surgery -- most of them are not worrisome.  However, increasing congestion, especially if associated with some pain, can be due to infection or a collection of blood in the septum area that expands the width of the septum, creating more obstruction in the airway.  If these are possibilities, you should get in to see your surgeon or and ENT doc ASAP.  However, the most likely cause is either swelling due to the surgery itself and/or plugs of blood clot and/or mucous in your nasal airway(s).  If this is the case, they will resolve with time, but you can help by sniffing back to try to help clear your nose or by using saline nose wash solutions or by seeing your doctor to have him help suction out the nose.  However, do not use nasal decongestant sprays at this point and don't stick anything deep into your nose to try to clear it (like a Q-tip) as those actions can cause more problems.  Whatever you do, let your surgeon know what you're experiencing and what you are doing about it and follow their advice.

Madison Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.4 out of 5 stars 35 reviews

Breathing Problems After Rhinoplasty

Swelling 10 days after a rhinoplasty is very normal and it should resolve within a couple of months. It's still too early in your healing process for the swelling to subside so I would recommend being a bit more patient and if you are still experiencing breathing problems in a few weeks, you can discuss your concerns with your facial plastic surgeon.

Carlo P. Honrado, MD, FACS
Los Angeles Facial Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 10 reviews

Breathing Problems after Rhinoplasty

What you are experiencing is completely normal and expected due to swelling.  You may experience swelling (to a lesser degree) for up to 12 months; however you should notice a big improvement in your breathing as soon as this swelling begins to go down (this varies patient to patient).  However, rest assured that at 10 days you are still very swollen and should not be concerned. Should you continue to experience breathing difficulting, or other issues consult your doctor. 

Gregory J. Stagnone, MD
Dallas Plastic Surgeon
4.6 out of 5 stars 39 reviews

Breathing problems after rhinoplasty, septoplasty, and turbinate reduction?

You will have swelling after surgery, and congestion persists for around two weeks, sometimes longer depending on the individual circumstances of the patient. I would recommend communicating your concerns to your surgeon, as he or she knows the extent of your procedure and exactly what was performed. I hope this helps, and I wish you the best of luck.

Paul S. Nassif, MD
Beverly Hills Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.7 out of 5 stars 47 reviews

Worse breathing after septo-rhinoplasty and turbinate reduction

It is very common to have significant internal swelling in the nose after septorhinoplasty and turbinate reduction surgery such that your breathing feels worse than before.

You should follow your surgeon's post-surgical care recommendations to maximize the healing process. I suspect that your surgeon will be checking inside your nose periodically to make sure everything is healing properly.

Thomas A. Lamperti, MD
Seattle Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 21 reviews

Breathing after rhinoplasty surgery

At ten days out from the septal surgery, rhinoplasty, and turbinate surgery there is more than likely swelling.  Give it more time.

Steven Wallach, MD
New York Plastic Surgeon
4.1 out of 5 stars 28 reviews

Be patient, it will get better

With functional nasal surgery, breathing is often worse temporarily immediately following surgery due to swelling, dried blood or scabs, mucous buildup and splints or packing depending on what your doctor used.  You should notice a big improvement over the next couple of weeks.  Full improvement may take a few months to achieve.  If at this point, you are still having breathing problems, a re-evaluation is in order.  Good luck.

Scott K. Thompson, MD
Salt Lake City Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 107 reviews

More Congestion After Nasal Surgery

Not to worry.  It is very normal to experience congestion in this early stage of healing.  You also have internal swelling.  Follow up with your Plastic Surgeon and follow his post op instructions for your best result.  Best wishes!

Robert E. Zaworski, MD
Atlanta Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 60 reviews

Breathing trouble After Nose Surgery


as others mentioned its a very common concern after nasal surgery, particularly when the "rhinoplasty" component is added. I'll try to explain the anatomy a bit before I give you my opinion. The septoplasty corrects the partition separating the left and right side of your nose. If the septum is crooked, then the septoplasty corrects this and improves breathing. However, this is not the whole story, the inferior turbinate is like a little humidifier than hangs down of the side of your nose (on each side). We reduce these through a variety of means, but the purpose is to again, improve your breathing. The area between your septum and your inferior turbinate is the "nasal valve" and this is the key to getting good breathing. The larger the opening, typically, the better the breathing. 

Now, some potential issues early on, particularly in your case is that by cutting the bones (i assume to make your nose a bit more narrow) two things can happen. One, there is a lot more swelling. Two, the narrowing may have slightly narrowed your nose at the valve region and add on to that swelling. typically it will resolve over the course of 2-4 weeks. 

As others mentioned, there are many other causes. I'll mention one more to be thorough. Sometimes, you can actually remove too much of the inferior turbinate and you get a syndrome call Empty Nose Syndrome. Oddly enough, a nose with too much space is worse than a nose with not enough space. I highly doubt that happened, but as others mentioned you should see your Surgeon and have them take a look. Its likely something that is going to clear up with no issues, but a qualified nasal surgeon should examine you. 


James Bonaparte, MD, MSc, FRCSC
Ottawa Facial Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 17 reviews

Septorhinoplasty recovery with turbinate reduction

Dear Lilly, Please dont be over concerned at this point in your recovery. Ten days is too early to determine what your functional aspects will be once the swelling dissipates.  It is not uncommon for someone to be congested at this time and as the swelling dissipates in the next few weeks I am hoping you have more and more breathing functions restored. See your surgeon often for post operative appointments so he/she can tell you where you are in the healing process with a direct examination. Wishing you a quick recovery! Best regards, Michael V. Elam, M.D.

Michael Elam, MD
Orange County Facial Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 208 reviews

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.