Why does my nose have such a horrible smell after turbinate reduction and septum repair?

I had nose surgery about a month ago. My nasal passages are extremely small, so they had to shrink my turbinates and also repair my septum. I am following all of the DRs orders. I still even sleep with my head elevated. However, the past week or so, my nose has an incredibly horrid smell. It's so bad that my husband can smell it when he kisses me. (This is super embarrassing.) I am just not sure what to do.

Doctor Answers 8

Nasal Irrigation and Examination

Dear bribradnewyork, I agree with Dr. Bressler's and Dr. Tholen's comments below. Start with nasal irrigation and a thorough exam with a speculum to make sure there is not a retained foreign body and to remove any crusting. If that does not solve the problem then a return to surgery to look for exposed bone is the proper protocol to handle this problem. I hope this has been helpful. Robert D. Wilcox, MD

Dallas Plastic Surgeon
4.0 out of 5 stars 20 reviews

Foul smell post-op

Thank you for the question. It is rather difficult to guarantee a reliable evaluation of your concern without an in-person exam. Since foul smell may indicate a potential infection.  It can also be from retained fluid, tissue or a blood clot in the canal which often improves with irrigating with salt water.  It is imperative that you get in touch with your plastic surgeon. In case of crusts or scabs inside the nose, nasal saline irrigation may help in alleviating your concern. 

As always, an in-person examination with a board-certified plastic surgeon is the best way to assess your needs and provide a reliable medical advice.

Michael M. Omidi, MD, FACS
Beverly Hills Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 92 reviews

Why does my nose have such a horrible smell after turbinate reduction and septum repair?

My colleagues have all given good answers, but none really answer the question. The odor you perceive is due to exposed bone (from the turbinate resections) that has not had mucous membrane healing cover the cut edge. This bone becomes contaminated with nasal bacteria (perhaps altered by antibiotic coverage), and the "infected/contaminated" dead bone edge smells, mightily!

Antibiotics and irrigations might solve the issue, but I learned years ago the best way for dealing with this was to return to the operating room and use a small pituitary ronguer to nip off the exposed edge of bone, which neatly removes the source of the odor and starts the healing process. This can be done easily and without anesthesia in most cases (topical cocaine packs and oral or IV sedation can help the squeamish). Talk to your surgeon--this is easily correctable! Best wishes! Dr. Tholen

Richard H. Tholen, MD, FACS
Minneapolis Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 255 reviews

Horrible smell after turbinate reduction and septum repair

Have your surgeon examine you very soon. While an infection is possible a little bit of material such as an exposed suture or some dressing is more likely.  Saline irrigation is an excellent treatment but you will need to be instructed how to perform it correctly.

Curtis Perry, MD
Downey Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 19 reviews

See your doctor

Have you contacted your surgeon about this?  If not you should do so immediately.  You don't want to risk an infection that could compromise your result.   Don't rely on advice from random people on the internet.   

Matthew Bridges, MD
Richmond Facial Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 24 reviews

Rhinoplasty and nasal odour

Your nose needs to be internally assessed by your surgeon.  It may be that you have an infection or more likely some necrotic tissue like a scab from the turbinate surgery which has crusted over and hence the smell.  In either case, frequent nasal saline douches and a through office based internal endoscopic examination  and cleaning if required should give you the relief you are after.   Hope this is helpful

Smell after nasal surgery

I would completely agree with Dr Bressler's opinion.  Frequent saline irrigation can be helpful beyond which a thorough cleaning by your doctor should help and to make sure there is no foreign body such as packing or a splint still in your nose.

Devinder S. Mangat, MD, FACS
Cincinnati Facial Plastic Surgeon
3.8 out of 5 stars 27 reviews


Often patients benefit from nasal cleaning in the doctors office to remove any mucous scabs or dissolvable sutures which can accumulate inside the nose and cause an odor. Saline irrigations may help if you physician has given you permission to do this. I would recommend you contact your doctor for a routine cleaning in the office. If you have any other issues, i.e. sinusitis, retained packing, intranasal splints etc, your physician can best advise you. 

Fred J. Bressler, MD, FACS
Houston Facial Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 7 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.