Rhinoplasties, or “nose jobs,” are one of the most common cosmetic surgery procedures. According to a recent report by The American Society of Plastic Surgeons, just over 350,000 nose surgeries were performed in the USA during 2020. The reasons for having a rhinoplasty procedure may be purely cosmetic–you may simply want to change the shape of your nose. Alternatively, the surgery may be for medical reasons, such as to correct a defect that is causing breathing issues.
Whatever the reason for the surgery, having discussed the procedure with your surgeon and deciding to go ahead with the surgery, you are now wondering about the post-surgery stage. Here’s what to expect.
How long will it take to recover?
One of the first questions that people ask, regardless of the type of surgery, is: How long will it take to recover from the procedure? The simple answer is that rhinoplasty recovery time can last for up to a year until the final stage of your recovery period is reached and the swelling has finished going down. However, you’re going to feel much better and see results before then.
Immediately post surgery
In the first few hours after surgery, you’re not going to be looking your best. Your surgeon will probably have inserted a nasal splint or some form of packaging inside your nose during surgery. They will also have put splints around the outside of your nose to aid the healing process and reshaping. The splints will likely be in place for around a week, depending on how the nose tissue and cartilage are healing.
Intubation during surgery is standard, so your throat may feel raw or scratchy from the breathing tube when you wake up. Drinking cold, non-acidic drinks will help ease this.
Once the anesthesia has worn off and there are no other issues, the doctors will discharge you to continue your recovery at home. If you live alone, it may be advisable to have a friend stay with you for the first day after surgery.
The first week after surgery
A small amount of blood may occasionally drip from your nostrils during the first few days after surgery.
You will need to use a few pillows to keep yourself in an upright position to help reduce the swelling in your face, so you may need to get used to sleeping in a new position. This may lead to a few nights of restless sleep. Your sleep may also be affected by your breathing only through your mouth, and you may want to keep some water by your bed as your throat may get dry during the night.
Pain and discomfort
You’re likely to experience a certain amount of discomfort. If you are in a lot of pain, you should take only your prescribed medication. It is not recommended to take aspirin or ibuprofen for at least a couple of weeks after surgery as these medications may increase the risk of bleeding.
You might also have swelling around the upper part of your face. Ice packs may help to ease that.
You will need a lot of rest to help with your recovery. You should keep yourself hydrated and avoid eating salty foods and drinking alcohol, as both are known to increase swelling by increasing your blood pressure.
Avoid any strenuous activities or anything that might put a strain on your face in the first few weeks after surgery. This might include excessive talking, chewing, and smiling. Your surgeon may also advise against blowing your nose for a few days so you don’t open any incisions.
Around the end of the first week, your surgeon will remove the splints. This will be the first time you see your nose after surgery, and it’s important to manage your expectations. There will still be a lot of swelling, so you will need to wait for that to go down before seeing how your nose will really look.
After a week or two, patients may usually return to normal activity. It is perhaps best to wait a few weeks before resuming activities like swimming. You may still have a bit of swelling and some other signs of surgery, but the majority should be gone. There may also be some minor bruising, but nothing that cannot be easily covered with makeup.
For the first three months after surgery, be extra protective about your nose as this is the period when it is most vulnerable.
If you wear glasses, it will probably take two to three weeks before it feels comfortable to wear them due to the pressure on the bridge of your nose. The best option is to wear them initially for short periods and then build up to wearing them for longer. Contact lenses can be worn once any swelling or irritation around the eyes has gone.
It could take up to 12 months for your nose to fully heal, so you may not see the final outcome until then. By this time, the skin will have adjusted to any new nose shape or structure.
Written by Chaim Ford