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Basic Closed Rhinoplasty

  • Author: A John Vartanian, MD, MS, FACS; Chief Editor: Mark S Granick, MD, FACS  more...
Updated: Mar 22, 2016


Rhinoplasty describes an array of operative techniques that can be used to alter the aesthetic and functional properties of the nose.[1] Surgical access to the nose can be gained via incisions placed inside the nose (endonasal approaches) or via incisions placed inside the nose combined with incisions placed outside the nostrils (external approach), usually on the columella. Prior to the increased popularity of the external (open) rhinoplasty approach in the last decade, the terms rhinoplasty and endonasal rhinoplasty were almost synonymous. This somewhat artificial division between external (open) and endonasal (closed) rhinoplasty has become an established part of current rhinoplasty nomenclature. Despite this, both approaches share many of the same incisions, and many of the same principles apply regardless of the approach chosen.

Proponents of endonasal rhinoplasty emphasize the following advantages:

  • Decreased need for surgical dissection
  • Decreased potential for nasal tip support reduction
  • Reduced postoperative edema
  • Corresponding decrease in the potential for overall scarring or iatrogenic insult to the nose
  • Ability to make exacting changes in situ
  • Via tactile palpation, a more immediate and predictable ability to feel changes made to the nose
  • Ability to make targeted improvements without taking the nose apart
  • Shorter operative times
  • Theoretical reduction in morbidity, especially in older patients
  • Elimination of any risk (however minimal) for developing a visible external columellar scar
  • Reduced postoperative edema
  • Quicker return to a normal appearance

The experienced rhinoplasty surgeon can use either an endonasal or an external rhinoplasty approach, based on the patient's rhinoplasty indications.[2] This article is a basic review of endonasal rhinoplasty techniques and concepts. The reader is encouraged to read the many high-yield articles and books listed in the Bibliography.


History of the Procedure

The history of nasal surgery is indeed long. The Edwin Smith surgical papyrus from ancient Egypt outlines the diagnosis and treatment of nasal deformities some 30 centuries ago.[3] In approximately 800 BCE, Sushruta, of India, described a nasal reconstruction approach based on the transfer of a pedicled forehead skin flap.[4] In the 16th century, Tagliacozzi of Bologna, Italy, used brachial-based delayed flaps to reconstruct noses. The science and art of rhinoplasty remained essentially stagnant until the 19th century. Approaches to correcting nasal deformities were used by early plastic surgery pioneers such as Dieffenbach in the 1840s, who used a buried forehead flap to cover the nasal dorsum.[5]

The first published account of a modern endonasal rhinoplasty can be traced to an American otolaryngologist, John Orlando Roe. His original article published 1887 was titled "The deformity termed 'pug-nose' and its correction, by a simple operation" and described the treatment of saddle nose deformities.[6] In 1892, Robert F. Weir, another American surgeon, also published his techniques for correcting the saddled nose.[7]

In 1898, Jacques Joseph, an orthopedic surgeon by training, presented his revolutionary concepts of nasal surgery to the Medical Society of Berlin. Many aspiring rhinoplasty surgeons traveled to Germany to watch Joseph perform his rhinoplasties. His general reputation as the father of modern rhinoplasty can be supported by his influence in shaping many rhinoplasty concepts and techniques. In fact, many of the basic rhinoplasty maneuvers remain essentially the same today as when Joseph first described them. Joseph's concepts and techniques were further disseminated (especially in the United States) by surgeons such as Gustav Aufricht, Joseph Safian, and Samuel Fomon. Fomon's teachings and medical review courses on endonasal rhinoplasty helped in the education of countless early modern rhinoplasty surgeons, such as Maurice Cottle of Chicago and Irving Goldman of New York.

In the relatively short history of modern rhinoplasty, many additional rhinoplasty masters have contributed to the advancement of the field. Countless surgeons continue to advance our understanding of the art and science of rhinoplasty through their scholarly and clinical works. The continued sharing and dissemination of rhinoplasty knowledge has hopefully benefited the patient and surgeon alike.



Most patients seek rhinoplasty surgery to improve the aesthetic features of the nose. Others may elect to have a rhinoplasty for functional improvement of the nasal airway. Most often, both cosmetic and functional issues are addressed during rhinoplasty.



Etiologies of nasal deformity can be (1) hereditary/familial (eg, large dorsal hump), (2) traumatic (eg, after a motor vehicle accident), (3) iatrogenic (eg, unfavorable result from previous rhinoplasty), or (4) congenital (eg, cleft palate nasal deformity).



Septal deviation, inferior turbinate hypertrophy, deviated nasal bones, and narrow internal nasal valve area can all negatively impact the nasal airway. These issues must be addressed during rhinoplasty surgery.



Indications include (1) aesthetic deformity, (2) patient request for a change in nasal shape, and (3) improvement of anatomic nasal airway obstruction.



A great majority of rhinoplasties performed are purely elective in nature. As such, the surgeon must exercise judgment in selecting patients who want to have this type of surgery. This judgment is guided by surgical principles, the patient's psychologic state, and the ethical consideration of minimizing any iatrogenic harm to otherwise healthy patients. A brief list of common contraindications includes the following:

  • Unstable mental status (eg, unstable patient with schizophrenia)
  • Unrealistic patient expectations
  • Previous rhinoplasty within the last 9-12 months (applies only to major rhinoplasties)
  • Poor perioperative risk profile
  • History of too many previous rhinoplasties, resulting in an atrophic skin–soft tissue envelope and significant scarring
  • Nasal cocaine users
Contributor Information and Disclosures

A John Vartanian, MD, MS, FACS Assistant Clinical Professor, Department of Surgery, Division of Head and Neck, University of California, Los Angeles, David Geffen School of Medicine; Instructor, Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine

A John Vartanian, MD, MS, FACS is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, American College of Surgeons, American Medical Association, American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Specialty Editor Board

Francisco Talavera, PharmD, PhD Adjunct Assistant Professor, University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Pharmacy; Editor-in-Chief, Medscape Drug Reference

Disclosure: Received salary from Medscape for employment. for: Medscape.

George Peck, MD 

George Peck, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Chief Editor

Mark S Granick, MD, FACS Professor of Surgery, Chief, Division of Plastic Surgery, Rutgers New Jersey Medical School

Mark S Granick, MD, FACS is a member of the following medical societies: American College of Surgeons, American Society of Plastic Surgeons, Phi Beta Kappa, Northeastern Society of Plastic Surgeons, New Jersey Society of Plastic Surgeons

Disclosure: Serve(d) as a director, officer, partner, employee, advisor, consultant or trustee for: Waterjel, Inc.; Reconstat, LLC; DSM<br/>Serve(d) as a speaker or a member of a speakers bureau for: Novadaq<br/>Received none from Waterjel Inc. for board membership; Received none from Reconstat LLC for board membership; Received none from Open Science Co., LLC for board membership.

Additional Contributors

Frederick J Menick, MD Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Surgery, Division of Plastic Surgery, University of Arizona College of Medicine; Facial and Nasal Reconstructive Surgeon, Tucson, Arizona

Frederick J Menick, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Society of Maxillofacial Surgeons, Canadian Society of Plastic Surgeons, American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, American Society of Plastic Surgeons

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.


Author would like acknowledge his mentors (in alphabetical order): Drs. Frank Kamer, Eugene Tardy, and Dean Toriumi.

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  2. Tebbetts JB. Open and closed rhinoplasty (minus the "versus"): analyzing processes. Aesthet Surg J. 2006 Jul-Aug. 26(4):456-9. [Medline].

  3. Goldwyn RM. Is there plastic surgery in the Edwin Smith Papyrus?. Plast Reconstr Surg. 1982 Aug. 70(2):263-4. [Medline].

  4. Sushruta. Sushruta Samhita (English translation by K.L. Bhishagratna). 1998. Calcutta, India: Kaviraj Kunjalal Publishing; 1907-17.

  5. Dieffenbach JF. Die Operative Chirurgie. Liepzig, Germany: F.A. Brockhaus; 1845.

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  7. Weir RF. On restoring sunken noses without scarring the face. New York: The Medical Record; 1892.

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  12. Harel M, Margulis A. Dorsal augmentation with diced cartilage enclosed with temporal fascia in secondary endonasal rhinoplasty. Aesthet Surg J. 2013 Aug 1. 33(6):809-16. [Medline].

  13. Bagheri SC, Khan HA, Jahangirnia A, Rad SS, Mortazavi H. An analysis of 101 primary cosmetic rhinoplasties. J Oral Maxillofac Surg. 2012 Apr. 70(4):902-9. [Medline].

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Basic closed technique for rhinoplasty. Drawing illustrating marginal (inferior dotted line), cartilage-splitting (blue dotted line), and intercartilaginous (red dotted-line) endonasal incisions.
Basic closed technique for rhinoplasty. Endonasal incisions. Top dotted line marks the marginal incision, and the bottom incision marks the intercartilaginous incision. When combined, these 2 incisions permit the delivery of the alar cartilages outside the nose. Courtesy of A. John Vartanian, MD.
Basic closed technique for rhinoplasty. Drawing illustrating septal incisions.
Basic closed technique for rhinoplasty. Illustration underscoring the importance of leaving a robust (>15-mm) dorsocolumellar septal framework when performing septoplasty.
Basic closed technique for rhinoplasty. The caudal edge of the alar cartilages can be palpated with the back of the scalpel. Courtesy of A. John Vartanian, MD.
Basic closed technique for rhinoplasty. Marginal incision made by gently scoring the vestibular skin with a sterile blade. Courtesy of A. John Vartanian, MD.
Basic closed technique for rhinoplasty. Drawing relevant anatomic landmarks on the patient's nose is helpful. Here, the alar cartilages are outlined, along with the tip-defining points, proposed area of cephalic resection, caudal border of the ascending process of the maxilla, osseocartilaginous junction, medial canthal line, and placement site for alar batten grafts. Courtesy of A. John Vartanian, MD.
Basic closed technique for rhinoplasty. Delivery of the alar cartilage can facilitate a number of maneuvers. An area of cephalic cartilage is marked for excision. The excision is performed at a slanting angle to prevent sharply demarcated edges. A minimum of 6-8 mm of alar cartilage is left behind. Courtesy of A. John Vartanian, MD.
Basic closed technique for rhinoplasty. Nasal base resection can narrow the interalar distance. A more lateral placement of the resection can also reduce alar flaring.
Basic closed technique for rhinoplasty. Most dorsal convexities (humps) have a substantial cartilaginous component. Cartilaginous dorsal excision is best performed with a sharp No. 15 blade.
Basic closed technique for rhinoplasty. Lateral intraoperative view of a patient demonstrating medial, lateral (black dots), and intermediate (blue dots) osteotomies. The relative location of the osteotomies is described in relation to the face (low) and the ceiling (high). Courtesy of A. John Vartanian, MD.
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