Rhinoplasty Recovery Time – Expert Guide in 2023
More commonly referred to as a nose job, rhinoplasty is a cosmetic surgical procedure performed for either cosmetic or medical needs. For some, a crooked or humped nose is a sore sight they would rather not have anymore. For others, such as those with a deviated septum, rhinoplasty can medically help them breathe better and live healthier lives.
Rhinoplasty comes with its share of post-operative care and considerations. This expert guide will walk you through recovery time, pain management, and what to expect immediately after your surgery and long-term.
What to expect immediately after the rhinoplasty procedure
You can head home right after your rhinoplasty to begin your recovery. Unless the bones are broken (osteotomy), most patients do not bruise. If bruising occurs it takes between 1-2 weeks to completely resolve. Swelling peaks at 2-3 days and about 80% is resolved by the end of the first week. All the swelling is resolved in 6-8 weeks. Most rhinoplasty patients will see a significant improvement in both areas approximately 7 to 10 days post-op.
How long is the rhinoplasty recovery time?
It can take one to two years for the end cosmetic result. With the pain duration of 1-2 days, bruising up to two weeks and swelling up to 2 months. While you will see a significant difference in just a few weeks, your final results can take several months to appear.
You’ll notice a significant difference in about a 3-months time, but as time goes on, results will become more refined and in line with your predicted results.
Most of your rhinoplasty recovery time takes place within those first ten days. After this time, you can resume many of your daily activities. However, it can take approximately six weeks for the nose to be solid with all tissue welded together.
How to Manage Pain After Rhinoplasty?
Pain management and pain tolerance vary by patient. However, there is usually only mild pain (2-3 out of ten) associated with rhinoplasty post-op. Prescribed narcotics (Norco or Vicodin) from your doctor can cause light-headedness, nausea, and constipation. Tylenol can also be used as an alternative to narcotics to ease discomfort with the benefit of not causing nausea or constipation. And since the discomfort is usually mild, sometimes only Tylenol is necessary. Frozen corn or peas will also assist in decreasing pain as well as minimizing bruising and swelling. You should avoid taking aspirin-related products as they can thin the blood.
Rhinoplasty Swelling and Bruising Stages
Swelling of the surrounding tissue is a normal response to every operation. Swelling varies from person to person, but with a rhinoplasty, it is typically more pronounced due to the looseness of facial tissue in this area.
Swelling and bruising can cause facial distortion around the site of the operation. Swelling peaks about 48 to 72 hours after your surgery and is typically worse first thing in the morning. Help your swelling subside quicker by:
- Keeping your face elevated with your head above your heart while awake and asleep.
- Avoid forcibly blowing your nose for several weeks post-op or until your surgeon clears you.
- Avoid bending over or lifting for two weeks to avoid raising blood pressure or causing bleeding.
- Avoid anything that may bump or hit your new nose.
- Cool therapy (ie. frozen corn) to the eyes and forehead may help soothe swelling for the initial recovery period.
- Avoid constant sniffing.
- Minimize water exposure to nasal dressing while showering.
It is normal to also have discoloration alongside bruising that becomes more pronounced within those first few days post-op. Most discoloration decreases in intensity within the first week. Resolve it with the same care you use to resolve your swelling.
Wound Care Needed After Rhinoplasty
Rhinoplasty aftercare is important to your recovery. Sterile saline helps moisturize the nose, especially during dry months. Antibiotic ointment and non-antibiotic ointment (such as vaseline) are helpful for keeping the front part of the nose moist, where most of the internal stitches are located. They can also make the absorption of absorbable sutures more rapid by placing antibiotic ointment (ie. Bacitracin) along the inside of the nostrils.
Scar Management for Rhinoplasty
Depending on the surgical procedure, scarring is possible. Since the skin closure is not under tension, the incisions or scars heal with an excellent cosmetic result in most cases. After sutures are removed, if one is predisposed to hypertrophic scars or keloids, one may consider silicone ointments or silicone sheeting to reduce this risk. Targeted steroid treatments can treat visible scarring or areas of fullness starting at 6-8 weeks after surgery.
While rhinoplasty usually comes with minimal to no scarring, doing the following can help you reduce/avoid scarring from your procedure:
- Stay out of the sun; UV rays can affect the healing process
- Avoid smoking; nicotine decreases blood supply which can lead to scarring
- Listen to your doctor’s instructions and follow them closely
If you experience visible scarring, there are ways to treat it with targeted steroid treatments.
Rhinoplasty Dietary and Lifestyle Considerations
The first 24 hours post-surgery are crucial to your recovery process, and your diet makes a huge difference in what that recovery looks like. Multivitamins and Vitamin C help with collagen production and healing. Bland foods with balanced protein and carbs could also help reduce inflammation. Also, staying hydrated and avoiding excessive caffeine and alcohol is crucial.
Bland foods help reduce the risk of nausea postoperatively. Soft and easy-to-chew foods are good for recovery because you want to minimize moving the upper lip during your initial recovery. The less movement you make, the easier the healing process will be.
Some foods to avoid during your rhinoplasty recovery time include:
- Spicy foods
- Foods high in sodium
Rhinoplasty has little effect on your lifestyle post-recovery. Once you are past the initial two to four weeks, your typical activities, exercise, and work should fall back into place.
One of the most significant lifestyle changes a patient may have to make for a little longer is not wearing glasses. Glasses can affect your rhinoplasty recovery and should be discussed with your doctor.
What Are the Risks and Complications with Rhinoplasty?
An infection after rhinoplasty is rare. During your rhinoplasty, surgeons work hard to reduce the risk of infection by ensuring excellent blood supply to the nasal tissues. Applying antibiotic ointment after your surgery may assist in lowering your risk of infection.
However, report signs of redness, swelling, fever, drainage, or increasing soreness to the touch to your surgeon immediately.
Rhinoplasty Follow-Up Appointments
The first post-op appointments for rhinoplasty typically occur the next day after surgery, and one week after the surgery.
After that, follow-up appointments may vary based on your specific surgeon and their practice’s policies. Many follow a similar schedule: follow-up at two and four weeks, two months, three months, six months, and then at one year. Some may even require patients to come in annually to see how they are doing and how the shape of the nose is settling.
When Do You Resume Normal Activities After Rhinoplasty?
Every rhinoplasty patient recovers at a different pace, meaning they resume their normal activities at different paces.
Typically, people can return to work and light activity anywhere from two to four weeks post-surgery. When you return will depend on the amount of swelling or bruising developed and your work environment.
Patients who work strenuous jobs or have public contact may need an extended recovery time before being cleared to return to full duty.
Other activities, such as exercise or hobbies, can be discussed with your doctor and reintroduced as your healing progresses.
What is Long-Term Recovery for Rhinoplasty?
Rhinoplasty recovery time is short when it comes to swelling, bruising, and wound care. In just 3 to 6 months, your nose job will look pretty close to your predicted results. After one to two years, your recovery should be complete.
After this period, there is no additional long-term recovery that needs to take place.
What Not to do After Rhinoplasty
Follow these precautions during your rhinoplasty recovery time.
Do not injure your nose. Stay away from activities that could cause your nose to be bumped. Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol, for example, can create instability and a chance that you will fall and damage your nose.
Do not engage in prolonged sun exposure. Heat and UV rays are detrimental to your healing process and will slow it down. If you are in the sun, use proper protection with sunblock and a wide-brimmed hat.
Don’t wear tight-fitting clothes. Your clothes should be loose, comfortable, and easy to get on and off without rubbing against your nose.
Don’t sleep on your stomach. Keeping your head elevated is best, but even side-sleeping is okay. Use sleep aids like a foam block, stacking pillows, or a travel pillow to help keep your body in the right direction during your recovery.
Tips for a Faster Recovery After Rhinoplasty Surgery
Full rhinoplasty recovery can take about a year from surgery, so patience and following simple instructions can make a huge difference. Here are some tips to help speed up your rhinoplasty recovery:
- Follow your doctor’s instructions, especially regarding medications, surgical site care, and follow-up exams.
- Listen to your body. You know your body internally, so if anything is ever feeling off, discuss your symptoms with your doctor.
- Keep your head elevated using multiple pillows or a foam wedge. Keep your head in place with a travel pillow or rolled-up towels.
- Cold compresses (frozen corn/peas in a zip lock bag) reduce swelling. Use them often during the first 72 hours post-surgery on your cheeks, but not directly on your nose.
- Use nasal rinses to keep the nose clean and avoid blowing your nose. Sleeping with a humidifier will also help keep your nose from getting dry overnight.
- Rest is vital to recovery. Get a solid seven or eight hours of sleep a night to help restore the energy your body needs to recover.
- Maintain a healthy diet by giving your body the nutrients it needs to heal.
- Heat causes your swelling to get worse. Avoid steamy showers and hot bowls of soup. Stay out of the heat to avoid stalling your rhinoplasty recovery time.
- Avoid strenuous exercise and look to your doctor for cues when you can resume your usual activities. Ease back into your pre-surgical exercise routine.
- No glasses! If you can switch to contacts during the healing process, do it. If glasses are necessary, your post-surgical splint should be on your nose below the glasses.
Be patient with yourself during your rhinoplasty recovery time. Healing can feel long and stressful for many patients, but you will get the results you seek if you give it time. This expert guide provides clear expectations of this life-altering surgery to make the best of your post-operative experience. If you’ve been considering nose beautification/rhinoplasty in the Las Vegas, NV region, book a consultation with Dr. Troell at Beauty by Design.
Dr. Troell is a board-certified facial plastic surgeon and otolaryngologist (ENT surgeon) who practices in Las Vegas, NV, and Newport Beach, CA. He specializes in facial plastic surgery and has developed his own unique techniques to achieve natural looking results for his patients.