The recovery process following rhinoplasty can differ between patients. Factors such as the extent of the procedure and how carefully the patient follows the surgeon’s post-operative instructions will play a role in how quickly one recovers.
What to expect after surgery
Following surgery, as the general anesthesia wears off, you will feel tired, groggy, or nauseous. Many patients feel some degree of pain, discomfort, or tenderness, which can be managed with pain medications. You may also be prescribed antibiotics; take these exactly as directed by your doctor.
Your nose will also be stuffy, causing you to breathe only from your mouth for the first few days. You may or may not have nasal packing, which is surgical gauze and other materials placed inside the nose to help reduce bruising or swelling. This can create some uncomfortable pressure as you recover from surgery.
The sutures used to close the incisions may be dissolvable, or they may need to be removed about a week following your rhinoplasty.
Common side effects experienced during your rhinoplasty recovery include bruising and swelling. The bruises may extend to the eye area, giving you the appearance of “black eyes.” Don’t be too frightened when you look at yourself in the mirror during the first few days. It usually takes about ten days for the bruising to disappear completely, although patients who are smokers may experience an extended recovery period of bruising for up to 3 weeks following surgery. Other side effects can include numbness, peeling skin, or bleeding.
Most patients return home the same day as their surgery, but you will need someone to drive you. Once you return home, plan to take several days to recuperate before trying to resume your daily activities.
Tips to reduce swelling
Many rhinoplasty recovery patients find that swelling is the side effect that lasts the longest. In fact, some residual swelling may persist for up to six months, obscuring the full results of your rhinoplasty procedure. Although some degree of swelling is to be expected during the recovery period, there are a few steps you can take to minimize swelling:
- Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water, especially in the first few days after surgery.
- Eat a proper diet and watch your sodium intake.
- Get plenty of rest. Avoid returning to daily activities too quickly.
- Use ice or cold compresses, if your doctor recommends doing so.
- Avoid medications that may interfere with fluid balance, and make sure your doctor knows about any medications you are taking.
- Avoid bumping or disturbing your nose as it heals.
- Sleep with your head and shoulders elevated by at least two pillows. This helps to reduce swelling and bruising and also keeps you from disturbing the nose area in your sleep.
In addition to the tips above, during these first few weeks, it is also important for patients to avoid wearing cosmetics on the face. Those who wear contacts can resume their use immediately, while those who wear glasses will need to avoid resting them on the nose for at least six weeks.
Splints or tape for your nose
The splint or tape placed over the nose by the surgeon holds the new nose structure in place to help it heal in the correct position. The slight pressure exerted by the splint or tape also helps to relieve swelling and may result in a shorter rhinoplasty recovery period. Your doctor may instruct you to replace the tape as needed, or this may be done at a follow-up visit. The tape itself may cause some irritation or redness, but patients are advised not to remove the tape or splints too early.
Returning to your daily routine
The initial rhinoplasty healing time lasts about two to three weeks, with most patients returning to work after about one week. For at least one to two months, avoid strenuous exercise or activities that may cause a blow to the nose. During the rhinoplasty recovery period, be careful not to accidentally hit your nose. Doing so can cause pain, prolong the recovery time, or even move your nose out of alignment. The nose is somewhat weaker than normal until it is fully healed.