Nose Reshaping (Rhinoplasty)

What is nose reshaping?

Cosmetic nose reshaping is also known as rhinoplasty. This surgery can change the shape of the nose, and also fix some breathing problems. Rhinoplasty involves resculpting either bone, cartilage, or both. This procedure can:  

  • Reduce or increase the size of the nose

  • Narrow the span of the nostrils

  • Change the angle between the nose and upper lip

  • Change the tip or bridge of the nose

Rhinoplasty can be done as a closed or open procedure:

  • Closed procedure. The surgeon works from inside the nose by making a cut (incision) inside the nose.

  • Open procedure. The surgeon works from the outside by making a small cut (incision) across the tissue that divides the nostrils. They extend that incision up into the nose. This lets the surgeon move the skin to reach the cartilage and bone.

Possible complications

Any surgery has risks. Rhinoplasty can have many possible complications. Some of them include:

  • Repetitive (revision) surgery. In rare cases, a second surgery may be needed to fix a minor defect, such as a hole in the nasal septum. Or it may be done if the wound did not heal correctly because of the first surgery. Or if you were not happy with how your nose looked after the first surgery.

  • Surgery complications. As in any surgery, there is a risk for infection or reaction to the anesthesia. Nosebleeds can also occur after surgery. You may have numbness, pain, and swelling. The skin may change color. The areas below the nose can be injured.

  • Burst blood vessels. Sometimes small blood vessels may break open (burst). This can cause tiny red spots on the nose. The spots are often very small. But they can be permanent.

  • Scarring. With the open procedure, some scarring on the base of the nose is possible.

  • Trouble breathing

About the procedure

Each procedure will vary. But nose reshaping surgery generally follows this process:

Locations may include:

  • Surgeon's office-based surgical facility

  • Outpatient surgery center

  • Hospital outpatient

  • Hospital inpatient

Anesthesia choices may include:

  • Local anesthesia with IV (intravenous) sedation that lets you stay awake but relaxed 

  • General anesthesia

Average length of procedure:

  • About 2 to 3 hours

Recovery period:

  • You will usually be up and around in a few days

  • You will usually return to school or desk work in a week or so

  • Your surgeon will provide guidelines for resuming normal activities

Some possible short-term side effects of surgery:

  • A splint may be placed on your nose to help keep the new shape.

  • Nasal packs or soft plastic splints may be placed in your nostrils to stabilize the septum.

  • Your face will feel puffy.

  • Your nose may ache.

  • You may have a dull headache and swelling or bruising around the eyes.

  • A little bleeding is normal in the first few days.

  • Small burst blood vessels may appear as tiny red spots on the skin's surface.

Final results:

  • Healing is slow and gradual. You may have some swelling for months, especially in the tip of the nose. Final results of nasal surgery may not be apparent for a year or more.

  • If you have traditional open surgery, or surgery to narrow flared nostrils, small scars will be located on the base of your nose. The scars usually are not noticeable. Scarring is not visible when rhinoplasty is done from inside the nose.

Online Medical Reviewer: David Lickstein MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Ronald Karlin MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Tara Novick BSN MSN
Date Last Reviewed: 6/1/2023
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