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The term “rhinoplasty” refers to plastic surgery that involves making changes to the internal and external structures of the nose. While this may be performed for purely cosmetic reasons to improve the nose’s appearance, it can also be used to restore adequate nasal breathing, in which case it is referred to as a “functional rhinoplasty”. A functional rhinoplasty typically involves repair of the nasal valves, which are the internal nostrils, and can be congenitally narrow, collapsed, or scarred from prior surgery.
Functional rhinoplasty is used to treat:
- Obstructed nasal breathing (functional)
- Nasal injury (trauma) causing unsatisfactory breathing
- Nasal birth defect impairing function
- Acquired deformity due to trauma, tumor or infection
- Narrowing, collapse or stenosis of the nasal valves (nostrils)
Understanding the Procedure
A functional rhinoplasty may be performed under different types of anesthesia, depending on patient and physician preference, including local, intravenous sedation (i.e. “twilight”) or general anesthesia. Incisions are made to allow access to the underlying cartilage and bone. When these incisions are hidden completely inside the nostrils, the procedure is referred to as “closed”. Often, a small incision may need to be performed at the base of the nose to improve exposure, in which case it would be an “open” functional rhinoplasty.
Depending on the patient’s need, cartilage and bone may need to be grafted to help gain support. These cartilage grafts are often taken from the nasal septum itself during the septoplasty portion of the procedure, although sometimes ear or even rib cartilage may need to be harvested. Further reshaping or grafting may need to be performed with sutures to the cartilage. “Osteotomies” – or deliberate fracturing of the nasal bones – may often be performed to straighten the nasal bones themselves.
At the conclusion of the procedure, the outside of the nose is often taped and some form of external cast may be applied. Dr. Moradzadeh rarely uses packing allowing for maximal comfort.
What to Expect Afterwards
Internal and external splints will remain on the patient for about a week after the surgery, and then removed by the surgeon. The individual may experience bruising and swelling for the first few weeks after the procedure and should count on taking at least 7 days off from work or school.
Is Functional Rhinoplasty Right for You?
Studies have shown that most functional rhinoplasties heal without adverse effects, and the vast majority of patients are able to breathe better as a result. While an improvement in nasal breathing is the primary benefit of a functional rhinoplasty, the procedure may also straighten the nose, repair post-traumatic or congenital deformities, and improve the appearance.
Most surgeons agree that women should wait until age 16, and men until age 16-18 before undergoing functional rhinoplasty —in order to avoid disturbing the normal growth of the nose until maturity. While there is no age cut off per se, as individuals grow older, their noses tend to change, and potential medical conditions may make surgery too risky.
A consultation with Dr. Moradzadeh will help you determine if functional rhinoplasty is right for you — and can improve your quality of life and help you breathe easier.
Insurance usually does not cover cosmetic surgery. However, surgery to correct or improve breathing function, major deformity, or injury is frequently covered in whole or in part. Check with your insurance carrier to determine if and how much functional rhinoplasty is covered under your plan.