Recovery from mostly any surgery, rhinoplasty included, depends on the individual with everyone on their own timetable. To give you a basic idea of what you can expect after rhinoplasty, we’ll cover the rhinoplasty recovery time line that the average patient follows.
Initial recovery is typically completed in a week (about 7 days after surgery). This is your time-off work (or school) time, where you relax as much as possible, sleep propped up, ice your nose and watch too much of your favorite TV show. By the end of week one, or sometimes week 2, patients are typically delighted with the outcome.
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A Few Facts About Rhinoplasty Recovery
Prep Work Can Shorten Recovery
Day Of Surgery
2 - 3 Days Post-Rhinoplasty
End Of Week 1
Week 2 Post-Rhinoplasty
3 - 4 Weeks Post-Rhinoplasty
2 - 3 Months Post-Rhinoplasty
1 Year Post-Rhinoplasty
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There’s typically no pain to deal with, or very little, from day one. Swelling, bruising and discomfort, yes. After week one, when stitches and packing (if any) are removed, most of the discomfort usually disappears with them.
Your intermediate recovery phase takes place from about a month to 3 months after rhinoplasty. Every day your nose looks better and better, but swelling persists. At the end of this time, most of your result is coming into view. Casual observers may not realize that you’ve had rhinoplasty.
There’s still significant swelling at the nasal tip, however, but it’s usually not noticeable to others. Your recovery is generally complete at about 1 year after surgery. Although your nose will change over many years with age, rhinoplasty is a life-long procedure that should leave you happy with your nose permanently. Now that you have a basic outline of rhinoplasty recovery, let’s go over some details.
Well before surgery day, you should have received your rhinoplasty pre-surgery and recovery instructions from your surgeon and had the details explained. You’ve chosen a friend, who’s agreed to drive you to and from surgery; and stay with you for the first day and night afterwards. Your instructions might look like the following:
You may have been asked to avoid certain prescriptions or over-the-counter medicines, especially those which may cause excess bleeding like vitamin E, fish oil and aspirin. Don’t skip any Rx medications you normally take, unless instructed to do so by your surgeon.
It's highly recommended that all smoking be stopped at least 2 weeks before your Rhinoplasty procedure. Carbon monoxide introduced during smoking affects our tissue and the nicotine found in tobacco products can cause blood vessels to restrict, limiting the amount of oxygen that can get to the rest of our body.
You’ve picked up your pain medication in advance from the pharmacy and purchased a wedge pillow. This will help you to sleep semi-upright to limit swelling after rhinoplasty.
You’ve also been to the grocery store and purchased a couple bags of frozen peas. They make excellent, form-fit ice packs for your nose during rhinoplasty recovery time.
Don't forget to get button-front shirts to wear on surgery day and during early recovery, you don't want your nasal splint or dressing to get caught on your shirt when disrobing, causing damage to your healing nose.
If you wear glasses, doctors do not want you to wear them during the healing process as to not irritate the healing bone structure of the nose. NoseComfort Eyeglass Support is the solution to this problem. NoseComfort lifts your glasses off the nose to alleviate any pressure you may feel and protect against glasses causing indentations in the recovering bone structure.
Recovery begins on surgery day, as soon as you’re taken to the recovery room. There you’ll be awakened from anesthesia gently. You may not remember these early hours after surgery, later on. You will be bandaged in a nasal splint. You may have packing in your nose.
If packing isn’t needed, you’ll have an attractive drip pad taped below your nostrils to catch the blood (a small amount) that may appear on your first night post-rhinoplasty. You’ll feel some pressure around your nose, and sinus congestion as your rhinoplasty recovery time begins. Later on at home, you may take pain medication if needed when your surgical pain meds wear off. Use the package of frozen peas to decrease swelling and relieve pressure.
When dripping stops, you’ll start cleaning your small nasal incision (using hydrogen peroxide) regularly. You’ll use ointment to keep crust from forming under your nostrils. You might eat something if you feel like it. Your loyal pal will get you glasses of water, food, etc. Some grogginess from surgery may persist and we don’t want you to fall, or bang your newly completed nose on anything! Let your friend help.
The first couple days of rhinoplasty recovery time, you’re in what we call the “uncomfortable” phase. Right now, you may not be breathing through your nose and you probably can’t smell anything. You keep your phone next to your recliner, just in case you need to call your surgeon about anything.
This can be a miserable couple of days, though not usually painful. (Pain is rated by most patients as 3 – 4 on a pain scale of 10. Be sure to use your medication to relieve any pain). You may be feeling nauseous. Your mouth-breathing may make it hard to sleep. Nasal irrigation, from your post-surgery instructions, will help you feel better.
Sleep propped on two big pillows (or your wedge), supporting your torso to minimize swelling. This also helps with bruising and limits bleeding.
You may now return to light activity. Please don’t bend over, blow your nose or try to lift anything over about 5 lbs. Don’t take Aspirin, Advil or Motrin.
If you have packing in your nose, you’ll visit your surgeon to remove it on about day 2 or 3.
The nasal splint and stitches are typically removed by the end of the first week. You will still have some swelling, but you can better visualize the new appearance of your nose at this point. Most patients return to work after a week, but continue to avoid strenuous activities.
At this time it's important to limit your sun exposure either by wearing a hat or avoid exposure altogether for at least two months.
In about the middle of this week, 10 days after your rhinoplasty, bruises have usually faded significantly. In another week or less, generally, swelling and bruises aren’t noticeable to a casual observer. You return to work or school on about day 8, but some patients are instructed to take 2 weeks off for rhinoplasty recovery time.
Between weeks three and four, you can expect to return to your normal exercise and activity levels, although moderate intensity. You should take at least another month off from contact sports or very strenuous exercise. If you’re willing to wear a protective mask, you can resume sports earlier. Always check with your surgeon. Much of your swelling is gone now, with the tip taking the longest to subside. You’ll notice your nose becoming more refined as the days pass.
By this point, any swelling around the bridge of the nose should have subsided completely. You may still experience some numbness at the tip of the nose. This is normal and the feeling should gradually return. The scar from an open procedure will begin to fade.
At one year, rhinoplasty swelling resolves completely and there are no tell-tale signs that any surgery took place, other than the change to the shape or symmetry of the nose. Every patient is different, so healing times are not guaranteed. If you do have concerns about how long it’s taking for your swelling to decrease, call your plastic surgeon.
Dr. Richard M. Winters, The Rhinoplasty Recovery Timeline You Should Expect
Dr. Christopher R. Hove, Rhinoplasty Recovery Timeline: What To Expect
Dr. Jeffrey S. Epstein, Rhinoplasty: A Timeline For The Healing Process
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