When it comes to making a decision for rhinoplasty, recovery time is a major factor for most people. How much time will I need off from work? How long until I can see my results? How long until I can go out and people won’t notice? Will I be healed in time for my wedding? These are common questions people want to know when I comes to making a decision of when to have surgery.
What Does Rhinoplasty Healing Look Like the First Week?
Healing can be different for everyone. There are many factors at play, such as genetics, nutritional status, anatomy, smoking history, extent of surgery, skin thickness and previous surgery are just some of the factors that can influence rhinoplasty healing time. The general rule of thumb when it comes to rhinoplasty healing time is that the first week post-op should be considered real downtime. This means one full week off of work, school, social activities, etc. During this time, a light nose bleed can be expected for up to 48- 72 hours. Swelling and bruising around the nose is expected, as is swelling of the upper lip, forehead, cheeks and eyes. If osteotomies, or bone work are done, there is a higher chance of bruising, swelling and possibly black eyes.
There is typically a dressing consisting of tape and plastic casting in place during this time, and nasal congestion and pressure can be expected. Pain from rhinoplasty is not significant, though pain medicine is usually prescribed. However, most people are able to use over-the-counter pain medicine for pain control with 48 hours. The cast and any external sutures usually will be removed one week after surgery.
What Does Rhinoplasty Healing Look Like the Second Week?
During the second week post-operatively, swelling and bruising can be expected to resolve. There is just residual swelling of the nose itself. A general rule is that 80% of the swelling is gone after two weeks with rhinoplasty surgery. The other 20% will gradually disappear over the next year. At two weeks, patients can usually go out and be seen in public without anyone noticing that they had surgery. Your final result is not complete until one year after surgery and that is due to that last 20% of the swelling and skin contracture that takes place over the months after surgery.
I tell most of my patients that they are ok to schedule and be seen at social engagements at around two weeks after surgery. The residual swelling at this time is usually only noticeable to me and the patient as well as any close family members and friends.
Typically, you will have a good idea of what your results will look like at around this time, 2-3 weeks post-op. However, you will usually not have quite the tip definition that you may have after the full healing period. There can also be some mild asymmetries that will correct themselves in time. Numbness of the nasal skin, especially the nasal tip, is expected and is due to the skin elevation. It can take a few weeks or months to fully return.
How Does Rhinoplasty Effect My Breathing?
Breathing is usually congested for at least two weeks, and in many cases, you should expect to not breathe through your nose for the first couple of weeks. In all cases, breathing is always the priority and should be improved or a least the same as it was pre-operatively, but will take two weeks to be noticeable. In some cases, people who have severe nasal obstruction will notice an immediate improvement even with the post-operative swelling.
Are There Activity Limitations Following Rhinoplasty?
Contact with your nose should be avoided for up to four weeks and especially in cases where there has been bone work done. It takes six weeks for a bone to fully heal. Glasses of any kind should not be worn for at least a month after surgery. Contact sports should be avoided at this time as well, so as to not displace a partially healed bone and cause any deviation or misplacement of the operated nose. Strenuous activity is not recommended for two or three weeks at a minimum.
To summarize, rhinoplasty recovery time depends on several variables. For the most part, the first week is the real down time, the second week you can return to work, school, etc. The two-week period is the critical time when things start to turn the corner and you can get back to your normal life. There are still a few exceptions, including contact sports, glasses, and strenuous exercise. Final results are not evident for a full year, but in two to three weeks post-op, you will have a pretty good idea of what you new nose will look like.