For patients considering functional rhinoplasty, this is the most important question: Will rhinoplasty improve my breathing? Rhinoplasty is an operation that alters the shape and/or function of the nose. While there are many different reasons people undergo rhinoplasties, one of the most common reason is to improve the function of the nose. This is commonly known as a functional rhinoplasty.

In the vast majority of cases, the answer to the original questions is yes, functional rhinoplasty can improve your breathing. However, it’s a good idea to research the procedure before you make a decision about your treatment.

Will Rhinoplasty Improve My Breathing?: Functional Rhinoplasty

Rhinoplasties can generally be divided into two categories: functional and cosmetic. Cosmetic rhinoplasties are performed primarily to alter the outward appearance of the nose, while functional rhinoplasties are performed primarily to improve the nose’s function as an airway.

Sometimes a patient may choose to undergo a rhinoplasty that is either strictly functional or strictly cosmetic, but there is often overlap between the two categories. It’s common, for example, for surgeons to correct cosmetic issues in the process of opening the nasal airway.

The goal of a strictly functional rhinoplasty is to improve nasal airway function so that patients can breathe more comfortably. Talk with your surgeon to decide which type of rhinoplasty best meets your needs.

Indications for Functional Rhinoplasty

The most common reasons why a patient may elect to have a functional rhinoplasty all relate to pre-existing functional deficits. Functional rhinoplasty can be used to treat obstructed nasal breathing caused by, for example, a birth defect, trauma to the nose, a tumor or an infection. Narrowing, stenosis and collapse of the nostrils are all additional indications for functional rhinoplasty.

If your current condition matches up with any of these common indications for functional rhinoplasty, it is very likely that the procedure will improve your breathing. Talk to your surgeon to better understand how functional rhinoplasty may alleviate your symptoms.

Rhinoplasty Procedure

Understanding what occurs during a functional rhinoplasty can help you decide whether rhinoplasty will improve your breathing. While the exact steps may vary depending on the details of your case, most functional rhinoplasties follow a similar protocol.

The surgery will vary based on the condition and anatomical make-up of the patient, however, the following procedure steps will always be involved for an open rhinoplasty: incision, reshaping the nose, and closing the incision.

Once you are safely under anesthesia, your surgeon will make an incision across the columella, which is the soft piece of tissue that separates the nostrils. The columella incision allows the surgeon access to the underlying bone and cartilage that form the nasal airway.

After gaining access to the supportive structures of the nose, your surgeon will reshape the nasal airway according to your needs. Sometimes this involves using bone and/or cartilage grafts from another part of the body. If you and your surgeon agreed on cosmetic changes to your nose, he or she will make these as well.

Once all of the bone and cartilage is in place, your surgeon will close the incision and your nose will be dressed for protection; sometimes this involves a cast, a splint or just gauze.

How Functional Rhinoplasty Can Improve Breathing

Functional rhinoplasty can improve your breathing because it widens the passage through which air flows through your nose.

Airway obstruction, whether from a congenital defect, an accident or an infection, is usually due to structural abnormalities in the bone and cartilage of the nose. Functional rhinoplasty is often highly effective because it directly addresses these abnormalities. Your surgeon’s goal will be to physically open up your nasal airway to allow you to breathe more easily.

As an added benefit, your surgeon may also be able to straighten your nose and correct any other issues that are not directly related to function.

Risks of Functional Rhinoplasty

If your condition matches any of the indications for functional rhinoplasty, there is a high chance that rhinoplasty will improve your breathing. However, like any surgical operation, it comes with risks. By familiarizing yourself with the risks of functional rhinoplasty, you can set appropriate expectations for your treatment and make an informed decision about your health.

Most functional rhinoplasties occur without any significant issues, and most patients can expect to breathe better and enjoy a higher quality of life. Nonetheless, in a minority of cases, some complications arise. For example, bleeding and swelling, while they are normal side effects of the operation, may persist longer than expected. In addition, a small percentage of patients experience an infection or complications due to anesthesia.

These complications are not very common, but you should acknowledge them before you proceed with treatment. Feel free to discuss them with your surgeon if you have any concerns.

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Dr. Winters

About Dr. Winters

Dr. Winters specializes in primary, revision, reconstructive, functional and teenage rhinoplasty surgeries. Dr. Winters is a fellow of the American College of Surgeons and maintains active memberships in the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the American Society for Reconstructive Microsurgery and others.