Like any plastic surgery procedure, rhinoplasty requires time for the body to heal. During this time, patients should expect certain side effects, such as bruising, tenderness, and swelling, during the recovery process. Although these effects should mostly subside during the early recovery period, many of our Los Angeles patients hope to further decrease the severity and duration of their swelling. To help our current and prospective patients with their rhinoplasty treatment, we offer the following tips on reducing post-operative swelling.
Why Does Swelling Occur?
There are essentially two types of swelling that occur after rhinoplasty surgery. The first is a result of the procedure itself and its temporary damage to the nasal tissues. This swelling tends to be the most obvious, beginning immediately after the procedure and lasting through the first week, as the cartilage and soft tissues begin to heal.
Once initial swelling has diminished, the nose will begin to look far more normal. However, it may still appear slightly inflamed or puffy for months afterward, due to fluid retention beneath the skin. Although this prolonged swelling may not be particularly noticeable to others, many patients must wait for it to fully subside until they can gain an accurate assessment of their final results.
CHECK LIST: Reducing Early Nose Swelling
Swelling will be most prominent in the first few days after surgery. Oftentimes, the precautions taken by patients early on will carry positive effects throughout their recovery. It is therefore crucial to follow your doctor’s instructions regarding general post-operative care. In addition, the following steps may help reduce the onset of swelling:
- Avoid anti-inflammatories before surgery: While anti-inflammatory medications like aspirin and ibuprofen can alleviate pain and swelling after surgery, these drugs should be avoided in the week prior to treatment. This will reduce bleeding and the risk of complications during surgery, thereby reducing the risk of excessive swelling.
- Avoid alcohol consumption: Abstain from alcohol in the week prior to and following surgery, as the consumption of alcohol inhibits the natural healing processes.
- Apply an ice pack: An ice pack is one of the most effective ways to curb swelling in its early stages. Over the first 24 to 48 hours, apply the cold (but not wet) compress near the swollen area for 10 to 15 minutes at a time, with the same time in between applications.
- Keep your head upright: Bending over or engaging in strenuous activity can worsen swelling in the first couple of weeks. It can also raise blood pressure and therefore the risk of complications.
- Avoid heat and moisture: In the first week of recovery, avoid getting the bandages wet. Once removed, you may gently wash your face with lukewarm water, but your nose should not be directly washed until directed by your doctor. Similarly, heated environments such as a spa or hairdresser’s dryer should be avoided for at least two weeks.
- Avoid hot water showers: We generally tend to take bath in hot water after a surgery as it is known to heal wounds faster. However, for inflammation, taking a hot water bath is not advised as it can cause the swelling to get aggravated.
Reducing Long-term Swelling
It typically takes months for swelling to completely resolve after rhinoplasty – as long as six months for the bridge of the nose and a year for the nose’s tip. To both hasten and minimize this residual swelling, we suggest the following:
- Avoid sodium: Foods that are high in sodium may prolong or worsen swelling. While it is difficult to avoid sodium completely, be conscious of your diet, avoid salty snacks, and avoid adding salt to meals. A good goal to aim for is 1500 mg or less of sodium per day.
- Elevate your head when resting: While sitting or lying down, keep your head as elevated at possible. In bed, opt for two pillows as opposed to one. The more elevated your head is, the more easily your body can slowly drain fluids from the nose.
- Avoid direct sun exposure: When possible, avoid direct exposure to sunlight, as your skin will be hypersensitive. If you plan on being outside for a prolonged period, apply sunblock diligently. This routine should be followed for at least the first four months.
- Consider anti-inflammatorymedicines: Arnica gel and Bromelain are two natural remedies for swelling and inflammation. However, speak with your doctor before using any non-prescribed medications or herbs.
Learn More about Rhinoplasty Aftercare
If you are considering rhinoplasty, septoplasty, or any other of our cosmetic techniques, we will gladly address all of your questions and concerns. Contact our office to schedule a personal consultation with Dr. Keyes.