The answer to this question depends on the extent of work that is performed. I tell potential consults that the majority of my patients say that rhinoplasty surgery isn’t necessarily painful, just annoying: a pressure consistent with a sinus headache, or the feeling you get when you have a cold and are congested.
Usually, you should expect to have some form of a splint on the outside of your nose to mold the shape and prevent swelling, two silicone splints on the inside of the nose (usually with tubes in them so you can still breathe), and – depending whether or not you undergo a closed vs. open rhinoplasty – stitches on the outside of the nose on a very specialized skin between the nostrils, called the columella. This scar heals extremely well and is virtually imperceptible by three months.
At one week, you will likely return to your plastic surgeon’s office to have the splints and stitches removed. You will then have the opportunity to look in a mirror to see what your nose looks like, and then poof! – it swells.
The majority of the swelling resolves at six weeks, but the nose will continue to change shape and improve over the next 6–12 months. Understand that it will already look better by 2–3 weeks, but the final appearance can take over one year. I always tell my patients the following:
“If there is an event, such as a wedding, a photo shoot, or a major presentation, six weeks is a mandatory minimum time requirement for healing.”
If you have thick nasal tip skin, or major reconstruction was performed, you may require repetitive taping, or injections of dilute steroids to reduce the amount of swelling.
By one year, if all goes well, your nose should have an improved, refined, and natural-appearing result! For the 5–8% who will require some sort of revision, the one-year mark is the time to discuss this with your surgeon. Remember, patience is an art, and is a necessary evil with nasal surgery!