Nasal Surgery: Improving the Appearance of Your Nose

You’re scheduled to have nasal surgery. Any surgery to improve the way you look is called aesthetic, plastic, or cosmetic surgery. Aesthetic surgery for the nose is called rhinoplasty or nasal reconstruction. In most of these surgeries, bone and cartilage in the nose are trimmed and moved.

Side view of head showing the before and after of a rhinoplasty. Nose cartilage to be removed highlighted in blue.

A typical aesthetic problem

What is done during your surgery depends on the type of changes to be made. The nasal bones and the upper and lower cartilage may need to be trimmed. Or they may need to be moved to give your nose the shape you want. Most cuts (incisions) are made inside the nose so the scars will not be seen.

A wide base problem

You may want the base of your nose to be narrowed. To do this, tissue needs to be removed from around the nostrils. Incisions are made on the outside of the nose and some tissue is removed. The tissue is then stitched (sutured) together. The scars will be hidden by the folds of the nostrils.

Risks and possible complications

As with any surgery, nasal surgery has some risks. These include a slight risk of bleeding and infection. Your doctor will discuss any other risks and complications with you.

After aesthetic surgery

After aesthetic surgery, you’ll be taken to a recovery area or to your hospital room. Your experience may be as follows:

  • You’ll have gauze bandages or other material (packing) or a plastic splint inside your nose. This holds the new shape of your nose, prevents bleeding, and promotes healing. You’ll also have a dressing (bandages) and a splint on the outside of your nose. These also help the nose keep its shape as it heals.

  • Expect mucus and some blood to drain through the dressing.

  • You may have some swelling or bruising around your eyes.

  • If you have packing, you may have to breathe through your mouth until the packing is removed. This may cause throat dryness and irritation.

  • While healing, be careful not to move your dressing or touch your nose.

  • Pain medicine will be prescribed as needed. Don’t take medicine containing aspirin or ibuprofen. These can increase bleeding.


You’ll need to follow up with your doctor within a week after your surgery. Here is what to expect:

  • Any packing, splint, or dressings will probably be removed. You may feel slight discomfort and bleed a little when this is done.

  • Expect some numbness, swelling, and nasal congestion.

  • Any bruising around your eyes and nose will most likely go away within 3 weeks. So will most of the swelling.

  • If you are told to do compression exercises to help your nose hold its shape, do so only as directed.

Assessing the results

During later follow-up visits, your doctor will assess your healing and the results of your surgery. It may take 12 to 18 months for your nose to reach its final shape. In most cases, any thick or uneven areas will go away with time. Talk with your doctor about any problems or concerns you may have. In some cases, a second surgery will be needed.