At our San Francisco practice, questions on rhinoplasty recovery frequently come up during initial consultations with Dr. Fan. Typical questions include the following:
- How long should I take time off from work?
- What should I expect post-surgery?
- Will it be painful and uncomfortable?
- How long will it take for the swelling to subside?
- Is numbness normal?
As with all types of plastic surgery, the length of the recovery period following a rhinoplasty varies from one person to another. The rate at which you heal depends on several factors -- from the state of your overall health to the elasticity and thickness of your nasal skin. Your choice of rhinoplasty surgeon will be a major influence on the your final outcome.
What to Expect After Rhinoplasty Surgery
The helpful information below outlines what to expect while healing from rhinoplasty. Still, it important to ask as many recovery-related questions during your consultations with your surgeon. Being prepared for your recovery is an important step toward an easy recovery.
Immediately Following The Operation
When you get home, you may still be drowsy from the anesthetic and sleep will be your main activity. You will want to sleep with your head elevated for the first several days, so ensure you have the proper pillows to be comfortable where you choose to rest and recover.
Following surgery, your nose may be placed in a splint. It helps support your newly shaped nose by keeping it stable while protecting the delicate area from accidental contact at the same time. You may also go home with packing inside your nostrils, which helps keep the swelling down.
You will be a bit uncomfortable, but keep in mind that this is only temporary!
The First Few Days
Rest comfortably with your head elevated and ice packs applied to your nose during this initial healing period. You will be given instructions for wound care and will be prescribed pain medication to help alleviate any discomfort.
It's normal for your nose and the surrounding areas to feel somewhat sore for the first few days following your surgery. A small amount of drainage from the nose is also common.
The First 2 Weeks
For the first 1 to 2 weeks, many of our patients experience bruising, swelling, and numbness. At first, you may not be able to see the real improvements from your surgery. If this is the case, do not fret. It's normal!
The majority of bruising and swelling subsides over the first 10 to 14 days. Most patients feel ready to return to work or school after 1 or 2 weeks. Within 3 to 4 weeks following surgery, most normal, non-contact activities can be resumed.
Dealing With Side Affects
Swelling is a part of every surgery. It's a natural, biological response. However, there are some things you can do to minimize swelling following your rhinoplasty.
- Keep your head elevated for the first several days. Try not to bend over or allow your head to drop below the level of your heart. When you are lying down, use extra pillows and support to ensure you don't increase the blood pressure to the nose.
- Gently use a dry, cold compress over the nose during the first two days. Beyond that, you may use cold compresses to assist in pain relief as needed.
- Avoid lifting heavy objects for at least the first two weeks. Straining increases blood pressure to the head, which can often cause hemorrhaging.
- Don't 'sniff' or 'blow' your nose! While your nose is healing, forcibly inhaling through the nose can cause more discomfort and additional swelling.
Rhinoplasty patients generally don't experience intense pain, mostly just discomfort due to tightness and pressure from the swelling. Your surgeon will prescribe you pain medication to ensure your recovery period is as pain-free as possible. Be sure to follow your surgeon's instructions and don't take aspirin or any other anti-inflammatory drugs, which can cause extra bleeding.
It can be frustrating battling the habit of rubbing or cleaning your nose. The swelling and mucus buildup can trigger involuntary rubbing or scratching. Be vigilant and avoid this as much as possible.
If you need to clean your nose, the outside can be gently cleaned with cotton swabs, lightly moistened with dilute peroxide.
After the splint is removed, you should not allow eyeglasses or sunglasses to rest on your nose. Doing so adds unwanted pressure and can affect the contour of the still-healing nose. If you have any eyesight issues, plan on wearing contact lenses or taping your eyeglasses to your forehead for several weeks.
Don't get too much sun! If you go outdoors or open a lot of windows, be sure and wear at least SPF 30 sunscreen until you are completely healed.
Getting Back to Life As Normal
While visible improvements will appear once the initial bruising and swelling resolves, it is normal to have slight, residual swelling present for up to a year. Its appearance tends to be very subtle, and not very noticeable to others.
Most people return to work a week or so after their surgery; when the bandages come off, and the bruising goes away. After about two weeks, you can start resuming normal activities and light exercising. However, it's important to follow your surgeon's orders through every step of the recovery process. Where one person may be back to normal quickly, the next patient might have slight complications that set them back a few days. Make sure you check with your surgeon before you try moving on to the next stage of healing.
If you feel like you may be a good candidate for rhinoplasty surgery, schedule a consultation with Dr. Larry Fan. He will be able to answer your questions, and come up with a plan based on your desired results and your physical attributes. If you're unsure of the next step, take our free online self-assessment to see if you are a good candidate for a rhinoplasty.