Nose surgery is a common treatment that is often chosen due in large part to its versatility. If you are one of the many people considering nose surgery, also known as rhinoplasty, then it’s a good idea to understand the different types and how they compare.

Generally speaking, most medical professionals categorize types of nose surgery into functional rhinoplasty, reconstructive rhinoplasty, cosmetic rhinoplasty and revisional rhinoplasty.

By researching the various types of nose surgery, you can make an informed decision about your health and appearance. While researching rhinoplasty, it is imperative to keep in mind that form and function are always inextricably linked. Cosmesis and breathing issues must both be considered whether or not the intent is to address one, the other or both. This is because the technical maneuvers are not mutually exclusive but rather related and often duplicative.

Different Kinds of Rhinoplasty

Rhinoplasty is the medical term for any kind of surgery that reshapes the nose. It’s a versatile operation that can meet a wide range of needs, so it is commonly divided into four subtypes.

Functional Rhinoplasty

The primary goal of a functional rhinoplasty is to improve airflow through the nose. Birth defects, trauma and infections are just a few of the reasons that a patient’s nasal passages might be obstructed. Functional rhinoplasty serves to remove the obstruction and improve your ability to breathe.

Reconstructive Rhinoplasty

Reconstructive rhinoplasty is typically performed in the event of disease or trauma. Skin cancer, for example, might necessitate the removal of a portion of the nose. In this case, the surgeon reconstructs the nose in order to restore its function, form and appearance.

Cosmetic Rhinoplasty

Even if there is no clear medical need for a rhinoplasty, the procedure can be useful to correct cosmetic issues. Cosmetic rhinoplasty can improve the proportions of your face by changing the size and shape of your nose.

Revision Rhinoplasty

In the event that a correctable issue surfaces after your first rhinoplasty, your surgeon may recommend a revision rhinoplasty. Although rare, issues like external deformities and breathing complications may arise after a rhinoplasty. If your surgeon determines that your symptoms aren’t merely expected side effects of the healing process, he or she may recommend a revision rhinoplasty.

Preparing for the Procedure

The most important step to take before scheduling your rhinoplasty is to consult with your surgeon. Pre-operative consultations typically involve a physical examination, an evaluation of your medical history and a conversation about your expectations of the procedure.

If you and your doctor decide that a rhinoplasty is the right option for you, the next steps will consist of a series of preparations to ensure that the operation goes as smoothly as possible. Your surgeon will likely advise you to avoid certain medications, like aspirin and ibuprofen, for about two weeks before the operation. He or she may also ask that you stop smoking for at least a few weeks before the operation, as smoking slows the healing process and increases the risk of infection. These details can vary, however, so pay close attention to the instructions you receive.

Procedure Length

Rhinoplasties often take about an hour and a half to complete, but their duration can vary widely depending on several factors. For example, if your condition is complicated and requires extensive reconstruction, the procedure may take up to four hours. A minor cosmetic alteration, on the other hand, may take only 45 minutes.

Other important factors that affect procedure length are the preferences of your surgeon. Different surgeons may simply operate at different speeds, depending on their chosen tools and techniques. Talk with your surgeon to better understand your condition and the expected duration of your rhinoplasty.

What to Expect Post-Operation

After the operation, you will wake up in the recovery room of your surgical facility. You will probably experience some pain in the period immediately following the operation, but oral medication should be sufficient to control it. Your nose and the area around it will also likely be bruised, swollen and dressed with bandages, splints and/or gauze that protect it and absorb the bleeding. Most patients go home without packing.

You can expect to go home the day of surgery, but it’s advisable to have a friend or family member stay with you the first night to monitor your condition and assist you with difficult tasks.

The pain, bruising and swelling typically worsen the day after surgery and gradually improve thereafter. To hasten the improvement, it’s important to rest with your head elevated and to treat your face with cool compresses to reduce pain and swelling. Above all else, carefully follow your surgeon’s advice.


A full recovery from your rhinoplasty is commonly defined as the point at which all of the swelling has gone down. While this varies from patient to patient, it typically takes about 6 months to a year. However, there are a few important milestones that you can observe to track your recovery. After 48 hours, you will no longer need to apply cold compresses to your face. Around a week after the operation, the dressings and splints will be removed from your nose. By two or three weeks, the majority of the swelling will be gone.

For several weeks following the operation, your surgeon will ask you to take some precautions to decrease your pain and swelling and to improve your chances of a quick recovery. For example, you should avoid strenuous activity or any kind of exertion that puts pressure on the affected area, such as blowing your nose. Talk with your surgeon if you have any questions or concerns about your recovery.

Speak With Your Surgeon

While there are several types of nose surgery, they all reshape the patient’s nose and follow similar preoperative and postoperative protocols. If you have any questions about the different types of nose surgery and how they compare, don’t hesitate to reach out and request a consultation with a qualified rhinoplasty surgeon — they will be happy to take the time to clarify any concerns you may have.

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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.