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Rhinoplasty is the technical name for surgery that reshapes the nose. One of the most common of all plastic surgeries, it can be done for health reasons (to correct breathing problems) but is usually done for cosmetic purposes. It can change the width of your nose, reshape the bridge or tip of the nose, or change the angle between your nose and upper lip.

What Nose Surgery Can (and Cannot) Do

As with other forms of cosmetic plastic surgery, you need to have a clear and realistic understanding of your motivation and goals for the surgery, and you need to discuss them honestly with your surgeon. Improving your appearance can't solve all of the difficulties that you might face in life, but it may increase your self-confidence as you deal with them.

Before Nose Surgery

During your first consultation with your doctor, you'll explain your reasons for having the surgery. Your doctor will examine your nose and facial structure and discuss the possibilities (what your nose could look like) and the procedure with you.

Together, you'll develop a plan for surgery and healing. This plan will determine the specific surgical techniques and anesthesia to be used.

Preparing for Rhinoplasty

You may not take aspirin or any non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory medicine (such as Advil or Motrin; Tylenol is acceptable) for about two weeks before the surgery.

What to Expect

Rhinoplasty is usually an outpatient procedure lasting between two to three hours, though more complicated cases can take longer and/or require a short hospital stay. Depending on the surgical plan you and your doctor have developed, you'll be given local or general anesthesia.

  • Local anesthesia means you'll be lightly sedated and your nose and the surrounding area will be numbed. You're awake during the surgery, but relaxed and feeling no pain.
  • General anesthesia means you'll be asleep during the operation.

How the Procedure is Performed

Some surgeons do a rhinoplasty from within the nose, making an incision inside the nostrils. Others use an "open" procedure, making an incision across the vertical strip of tissue that separates the nostrils (called the columella).

During surgery, the skin of the nose is separated from the bone and cartilage, which are then surgically changed to the desired shape. After this "sculpting" procedure, the skin is draped over the "new" nose.

A small splint will be put on your nose to help it retain its new shape and protect it as it heals. You may also be given nasal packs or soft plastic splints in your nostrils to help stabilize the wall separating the nostrils (called the septum).


All surgery includes some risk and uncertainty. Serious complications or side effects of this surgery are rare, but they include:

  • Infection
  • Bleeding
  • Blood clots
  • Bad reactions to the anesthesia

Immediately Following Surgery

During the first 24 hours after surgery, you'll stay in bed with your head elevated and have some pain and puffiness. You may also have some swelling and bruising around your eyes. This may even increase for a day or two, but will usually disappear within about two weeks.

After a Few Weeks

Between one and two weeks after the surgery, the bandages, splints and any stitches should be removed. You should be able to return to non-physical work or school a week or so after surgery, though it will be several weeks before you feel completely up to speed.

You can wear contact lenses as soon as you feel like it, but regular glasses will have to be taped to your forehead or propped on your cheeks until your nose is completely healed (about six or seven weeks).

Healing is Slow - But Results Are Great

Many people feel depressed for a while after plastic surgery, especially in the early days when their faces are bruised and swollen. This is quite normal and will pass.

Healing is slow and gradual and sometimes the final results of the surgery aren't apparent for many months or more. But remember why you chose to have the surgery. If you've met your goals, then your surgery is a success.