There are two common types of rhinoplasty surgery: functional and cosmetic.
When the primary purpose of the rhinoplasty is to shape the exterior of the nose it is often referred to as a cosmetic rhinoplasty, whereas a functional rhinoplasty is typically focused on shaping the interior passageways of the nose as well as the exterior to help improve breathing.
For Jeffrey J. Lehman, M.D., F.A.C.S., a board certified otolaryngologist at The Ear, Nose, Throat and Plastic Surgery Associates, a majority of the cases he performs are functional rhinoplasties.
“A functional rhinoplasty addresses the nasal function or breathing,” explains Dr. Lehman. “That is often combined with a septoplasty as well, which corrects the wall that divides the nose into two halves internally.”
Although the expressed goal of a rhinoplasty is to correct breathing issues, patients usually experience positive cosmetic benefits as a bonus.
“A functional septorhinoplasty can certainly positively affect the way the nose looks, but our primary reason for doing it is because of a severe enough external nasal deformity that it significantly affects function,” Dr. Lehman says.
Cosmetic rhinoplasties are among the most common cosmetic procedures performed in the US. More than 223,000 cosmetic rhinoplasty surgeries were performed in 2016, trailing just behind liposuction.
“A cosmetic rhinoplasty is done primarily to address the appearance of the nose, not necessarily resulting in any improvement in breathing,” he says.
As is true with functional rhinoplasty, patients who opt for a cosmetic rhinoplasty may experience the benefits associated with the other type of rhinoplasty procedure.
“A cosmetic rhinoplasty is obviously designed to make the nose look better, but there is oftentimes an improvement in breathing mechanics that can occur with it. The degree of improvement is not as much as with a functional septorhinoplasty.
Most patients will notice aesthetic changes when the swelling begins to go down, but Dr. Lehman says it may be up to a full year before the final results become apparent.