Rhinoplasty, or nasal surgery, can be either functional (for breathing or fracture purposes) or cosmetic (improvement of appearance), and sometimes both. Most patients who seek consultation for rhinoplasty have done some research online or by word of mouth before coming to our offices. Some, however, come with the expectation that this surgery can be performed within weeks of consultation or that recovery will be a breeze without having to take much time off work or school.
In order to address some of these concerns, I wanted to outline some of the recommendations I have given over the years for how and when to schedule your rhinoplasty as well as some brief comments about your recovery.
Recovery from nasal surgery can be uncomfortable. Severe pain is not the norm, but significant congestion and mild headache or malaise is common. A sore throat for several days, and some bloody discharge is also expected. Often, if a moderate amount of work on the nose needed to be done, or if surgery needed to be performed on the nasal bones, there may also be a fair amount of bruising and swelling around the eyes. Because of this, I often tell patients to take 7-10 days off school or work after surgery. I will see patients on day 1 after surgery and day 6. On the second visit, most dressings and sutures will be removed and breathing will improve. The appearance of the nose will be better than initially, but still moderately swollen. This will not decrease significantly until 2-3 weeks after surgery and then still will not be its final result for at least 1 year! Over the 6 weeks after surgery, however, moderate and impressive gains will be made in the appearance of the nose.
Because of the recovery, if you are a patient in school or about to start college, you will most likely want to schedule your surgery in the summer or over winter breaks. That will give you enough time to recover as well as adjust to your new appearance prior to the start of school. Summer can be a very busy period in cosmetic surgery for this reason. If you choose to undergo surgery in the summer, I would recommend visiting a plastic or facial plastic surgeon as early as January or February of the year you want to schedule your surgery. That way, you can obtain the consultation and photos, review the recommendations and possibly even have a second opinion before proceeding. Most offices will book surgery 6-8 weeks out from your consultation. This is useful not only for reviewing the recommendations but also to make sure any needed medical clearances or medications you are taking can be stopped within a safe window to proceed with the surgery.
If you are working and have no predetermined downtime, fall or winter can be a good time to plan surgery. This is because plastic surgery offices may have more availability then, and recovery may be easier when people are staying indoors anyway and not out enjoying the spring and summer weather. Again, plan on at least 10 days if not 2 weeks before returning to work, knowing that you may still have a moderate amount of swelling around the nose itself and may be more congested than usual.
For avid exercisers and those playing contact sports, know that strenuous activity cannot be engaged in until 2 weeks post operatively and no contact sports of any kind for 6 weeks postoperatively.
Whatever your reasons for seeking rhinoplasty, and whatever your particular situation may be, make sure you give yourself enough time to schedule one or more consultations with a facial plastic surgeon who has experience in this type of surgery. Rhinoplasty is one of the most difficult surgeries of the face with many consequences if done poorly. Attention to meticulous detail and extensive knowledge of the anatomy of the nose is essential to a good result. Take the time to get comfortable with your surgeon and make sure you understand what his or her intentions are with regard to the overall improvement in function as well as appearance. Once you have done your due diligence, know that it takes up to 1 year to obtain final results and have faith it will result in a much improved nose you no longer have to think about!