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How long does swelling last after rhinoplasty?

Written by Dr. Litner and Dr. Solieman | November 13th, 2012

There are two questions at the forefront of most people’s minds when considering rhinoplasty. When will I look good enough to go back to work, school, or social activities? And, when will I see the result I want?

The first answer is easy. Swelling and bruising should be gone in the vast majority of patients within one week after surgery. At one week, most everyone is comfortable going back to normal social and work activities. That being said, your nose will still feel a little strange at that time. It will probably be a little numb and stiff, and your smile may feel tight or awkward. No else will notice this but you will be aware of it. It’s extremely rare for anyone to notice what’s different about you unless you’re announcing your impending surgery to friends or to the whole workplace. Most of our patients tell us they here statements like “Hey, you look good”, or rarely “There’s something different but I can’t put my finger on it”. The reason is that there is not an immediate dramatic change. In most cases, the change is gradual enough that it is seen only when we focus on the nose.

On the second question, you should be seeing a real and meaningful positive change in your appearance even within a week or two after surgery. But, at this stage, you may only be about halfway to the imaged or desired result. We are talking here about detail or refinement. The skin has been lifted and changes made to cartilage and bone underneath, and it takes weeks and months for the skin to contract around the bone and cartilage. Until then, the skin can feel a little ‘loose’ or spongy. As the skin contracts, it ‘shrink wraps’ onto the change structure allowing more detail to show through.

Some factors can affect this timing. Thicker, more oily skin can often take longer to contract. If the nose was made smaller or narrower, it will take more time for the skin to contract to that level. On the flipside, if the tip was projected or the bridge raised and augmented, you will generally see more definition sooner after surgery. Revisions can sometimes be slower to heal although not always. If a large amount of scar was taken out during a revision and cartilage resupported, the skin will likely be able to drape better more quickly.

Of course, there is some individual variation here. Some patients look fantastic after 3 months and healing is essentially done. Others may have some fluctuating puffiness and continued improvement well over a year or longer after surgery. Your surgeon will be able to give you a sense of your expected course of healing during your pre-op visit. Things can also be done along the way to help swelling go down and have you looking and feeling great as quickly as possible.

Check out another one of our blogs on healing after rhinoplasty.


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