What is rhinoplasty?

Rhinoplasty is the surgical repair or reshaping of the nose. Also known as nose reshaping, rhinoplasty is one of the most common cosmetic surgical procedures in the world. Rhinoplasty can change the nose’s shape, length, width, profile, tip, nostrils, and its overall symmetry. A common name for cosmetic rhinoplasty is a “nose job.” Sometimes doctors recommend rhinoplasty for medical reasons, such as the repair of structural elements in the nose to improve breathing.

Rhinoplasty is a common but major surgery with significant risks and potential complications. You may have less invasive treatment options. Consider getting a second opinion about all of your treatment choices before having a rhinoplasty.

Why is rhinoplasty performed?

Rhinoplasty is a common cosmetic surgical procedure—a “nose job”—to change the size and shape of the nose for aesthetic reasons.

Your doctor may recommend rhinoplasty to treat certain medical conditions that affect the nose or your ability to breathe including:

  • Congenital abnormalities, such as a cleft lip and palate
  • Deviated septum, the displacement of the cartilage wall separating your nostrils, which can be present at birth or occur as a result of an injury to the nose
  • Injury or trauma to the nose, such as getting hit with a ball or trauma from a car accident
  • Skin cancer, which can cause skin lesions on the nose that, when removed, change the shape of the nose

Your doctor may only consider rhinoplasty for medical reasons if other treatment options that involve less risk of complications have not worked. Ask your doctor about all of your treatment options and consider getting a second opinion.

Who performs rhinoplasty?

The following specialists commonly perform rhinoplasty:

  • Facial plastic and reconstructive surgeons specialize in correcting facial defects that affect a person’s appearance or functional abilities, such as the ability to breathe through the nose.
  • Head and neck plastic surgeons specialize in correcting physical defects within the head and neck that can affect a person's appearance and ability to function.
  • Plastic surgeons specialize in correcting a variety of physical defects that affect a person's appearance or ability to function.

Other specialists who perform rhinoplasty include:

  • Otolaryngologists (ENTs) specialize in treating conditions of the ears, nose and throat.
  • Oral and maxillofacial surgeons specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases, injuries, and defects affecting the mouth, teeth, jaws and face.

How is rhinoplasty performed?

Your surgeon will perform rhinoplasty by making an incision just outside your nose or inside the nostrils to reshape your nose cartilage and bone. To surgically reshape your nose, your surgeon will likely remove parts of cartilage in the nose and replace it with other cartilage from inside your nose or rarely, from your ear or rib. Surgeons perform rhinoplasty in the surgeon’s office or in a hospital or outpatient surgical clinic.

Surgical approaches to rhinoplasty

Your surgeon will perform rhinoplasty using one of the following approaches:

  • Minimally invasive surgery is performed by inserting special instruments through small incisions in the nostrils. Minimally invasive surgery generally involves a faster recovery and less pain than open surgery. This is because it causes less trauma to tissues. Your surgeon will make small incisions instead of a larger one used in open surgery. He or she can then thread surgical tools around cartilage and bone, instead of cutting through or displacing them as in open surgery.
  • Open surgery is performed by making an incision in the columella, the strip of tissue between the nostrils and above the upper lip. An open surgery incision allows your surgeon to more directly view and access the surgical area. Open surgery generally involves a longer recovery and more pain than minimally invasive surgery. This is because it causes more trauma to tissues. Open surgery requires a larger incision and more cutting and displacement of tissues than minimally invasive surgery. Despite this, open surgery may be a safer or more effective method for certain patients.