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When patients are considering cosmetic surgery, they often ask me what the recovery is like. This is particularly true for rhinoplasties. People are worried that they’ll be horribly bruised and swollen. They’re worried about being in serious pain. They’re worried about having a lot of material packed into their noses that impacts their breathing. I understand those concerns, and I want to set the record straight. Here’s what to expect when you’re expecting a rhinoplasty.

1: Your nose will get swollen. The amount and duration of swelling depends on the type and extent of your procedure. If you have a little work done on the bridge of your nose, you probably won’t swell all that much. On the other hand, if you need the kind of surgery where we use external incisions and completely rebuild your nose, you can expect to be really swollen. The swelling is at its worst in the first week after surgery. It’s still pretty bad during the second week after surgery, but much better than during the first week. Usually by about six weeks following surgery, you’ll still have some minimal swelling, but only you and your doctor will notice it. It will gradually settle down, but it can take up to a year for all of the swelling to be completely gone.

** Please note – having a rhinoplasty will not cause you to grow a beard.  But this is a nice one. Very hip.

2: You can expect some bruising. As with swelling, the amount of bruising depends on how much work you have done. However, usually it’s mostly gone by about a week or two.

3: It doesn’t hurt all that much. I know, it’s easy for me to say because I’m not the one having surgery on my nose. But really, all of my patients say that it didn’t hurt as much as they thought it would. Most need prescription pain medicine for a couple of days then they switch to acetaminophen or ibuprofen.

4: You should be able to breathe immediately after surgery, particularly if you had a rhinoplasty for breathing problems in the first place. You may get somewhat congested from swelling on the inside of you nose for a few days post-operatively, but a lot of the breathing problems that people write about in online forums comes from material that some surgeons place in their noses. This technique is called “packing” the nose and the material used can range from big, long pieces of gauze to large plastic splints. I never use packing. I almost never use plastic splints inside your nose. A full discussion of the pros and cons of nasal splints is beyond the scope of this post, but in general, they cause pain and obstruction and they’re usually not necessary.

The thought of having a rhinoplasty can be scary. But trust me, the procedure can lead to great results and the recovery is relatively straight-forward. You’re usually ready to go back to work in about a week when your external cast comes off. It’s always important to do your research, but make sure that you talk to an expert so you get the real story.