Rhinoplasty Risks and Complications

Reviewed by Darrick E. Antell, MD

Like all surgical procedures, rhinoplasty confers its share of risks. Fortunately, serious rhinoplasty complications are rare. The best way to protect yourself is to choose a highly qualified, board-certified plastic surgeon and follow his or her pre- and postoperative instructions carefully.

Knowing your rhinoplasty risks can help ensure that complications are caught early and dealt with swiftly.

Rhinoplasty risks may include:

  • Anesthesia complications
  • Infection at incision site(s)
  • Bleeding
  • Nasal obstruction
  • Breathing issues
  • Septal perforation (a small hole in the septum)
  • Sinus infection
  • Graft or implant migration (if relevant)
  • Burst blood vessels on face
  • Skin or contour irregularities
  • Asymmetry
  • Nasal drainage
  • Stiffness in upper lip
  • Scarring or poor wound healing
  • Skin or tissue death
  • Dissatisfaction with the cosmetic results
  • The need for follow-up nose surgery

Rarely, more serious rhinoplasty risks may include:

  • Heart and lung complications
  • Death

Another rare risk is deep vein thrombosis (DVT), which occurs when a blood clot in a vein deep inside your body blocks the blood flow and causes swelling and pain. This clot may dislodge and move through the bloodstream, causing a pulmonary embolism, among other serious complications.

How to Avoid Unnecessary Risks

Planning ahead can help you avoid risks. Make sure to select a board-certified plastic surgeon. If you are considering surgery in another country, make sure the doctor has impressive credentials and is in good standing with the licensing and surgical review agencies of his or her country, and make sure that all arrangements for recovery and follow-up are made in advance of surgery.

In addition, if you plan to have other plastic surgery procedures performed at the same time as your rhinoplasty, ask your surgeon how the additional procedures affect your overall risk profile. Make sure you weigh these factors in your decision.

Rhinoplasty Risk Management

Learn more about rhinoplasty

Some rhinoplasty risks can be prevented or minimized. Walking as soon as possible after your nose surgery can help boost blood flow and lower your risk of DVT. Taking your antibiotic as directed for as long as directed after your nose surgery can help reduce your risk of developing an infection. It is also prudent to make sure your nose is well protected after your surgery.

Quitting smoking before your rhinoplasty (and hopefully staying the course afterward) can minimize your risk of infection, poor wound healing and skin or tissue death after your nose surgery. The use of alcohol and certain over-the-counter remedies such as aspirin or herbal preparations may increase your risk of bleeding and should be avoided.

Your surgeon should explain the warning signs of certain rhinoplasty complications, including infection, and tell you what to do if they should occur. Signs of post-rhinoplasty infections may include an elevated temperature, redness, discharge and/or foul smell at the incision sites, and/or severe swelling or pain. Make sure that the lines of communication between you and your surgeon are open during your rhinoplasty recovery. If something doesn't feel or seem right, contact your surgeon's office.

Every person and every rhinoplasty procedure is unique. The best way to evaluate your personal risk profile is through a candid discussion with your chosen surgeon. He or she will tell you which (if any) rhinoplasty risks are relevant to your surgery. Start your search for the right surgeon now.

About the Reviewer of This Article

Darrick E. Antell, MD, is an educational spokesperson for the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. He is a board-certified plastic and reconstructive surgeon who has been in private practice for more than 20 years in New York City. Dr. Antell is a member of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery and the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. He is also a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons. Dr. Antell received his general surgery training at Stanford University Medical Center and his specialty training in plastic/reconstructive surgery at the New York Hospital/Cornell Medical Center and the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.