Understanding the Basics of Aesthetic or Reconstructive Nose Jobs (Rhinoplasty)

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Rhinoplasty, commonly called a "nose job," is a surgical procedure to improve the function or appearance of the nose. The procedure is performed for a variety of reasons, from reconstruction (to correct birth defects, trauma, or breathing problems) to purely cosmetic purposes. A nose job can make the nose larger or smaller, reshape the tip of the nose, remove bumps on the bridge of the nose, or correct any other aesthetic or functional issues.

The results range from minor to significant, depending on the goals of the procedure. The results of a nose job are permanent, and this procedure should only be performed on a fully developed nose. For this reason, rhinoplasty is usually not appropriate for those under about age 16 or 17, although it may be done earlier when performed for reconstructive surgery reasons.

If a nose job is performed for reconstructive reasons, it may be covered by insurance. Those performed for purely aesthetic reasons are usually not covered by insurance. When comparing quotes from various plastic surgeons, be sure their written quote includes all fees, such as anesthesia and an operating room, not just the doctor's own fee.

Rhinoplasty is either performed with general anesthesia or a local anesthetic. The surgeon will make incisions inside the nostrils, where they will not be visible once healed. An additional incision may also be made across the skin separating the nostrils. The cosmetic surgeon will then separate the skin and soft tissues from the structure of the nose so that cartilage and bone may be reshaped. Once the reshaping is complete, the nose is usually held together with a metal splint and tape outside the nose to support it in the correct shape as it heals. This outpatient procedure generally takes one to two hours, depending on the amount of change desired.

After the procedure, the patient usually returns home the same day. Most rhinoplasty patients remain home from work and other obligations for about a week. Expect some bruising and swelling for about two weeks. These bruises may extend upwards, giving you black eyes. During this recovery period, you must keep your head elevated and avoid strenuous activities. Some shifting and settling of the nose shape may be apparent for up to a year. Like all surgical procedures, rhinoplasty is not without its risks. The risks of this cosmetic surgery procedure include bleeding, infection, and nasal blockage caused by swelling.

Dr. John Cook is a Chicago plastic surgeon skilled in Chicago nose surgery and other Chicago facial plastic surgery.

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