May 21

Rhinoplasty Mistake #3, 4, and 5: The Hanging Columella, Nostril Retraction, and Excessively Rounded Tip

In the last two posts we have taken care of imaging for a poor rhinoplasty result to address problems with the nasal bridge. Now it’s time to take a look at the tip. A frequent problem after an overaggressive rhinoplasty is a tip that becomes distorted and lacking in support. This usually happens when too much of the tip cartilages are removed in trying to narrow and refine the tip. Instead, you just end up with a tip that is unstable. We have lumped these 3 problems together because they often occur together after a Rhinoplasty in which the tip cartilages collapsed.

The diagram below shows the area of the tip cartilages (in red) that is commonly removed during a rhinoplasty. This would be considered a reasonable amount in most patients depending on their skin thickness. The key of course is not to remove too much.

Cephalic trim for nasal tip narrowing

Many surgeons are very aggressive with these maneuvers and may take out most of this cartilage or slice right through it without repairing the edges. They do this because the short-term changes can be very dramatic. You can turn a wide boxy tip into a very narrow one. But, the long-term results are usually devastating as the tip becomes progressively pinched and distorted over years.

If too much cartilage is removed in this area, the tip can start to collapse. It can often look asymmetrical with formation of bossae or little deformities and bumps in the cartilage that show through the skin. Also, the tip can start to rotate up too much. This gives the nose an upturned and shortened “Ms. Piggy” appearance that is positively despised by everyone who is unfortunate enough to inherit this problem.

This problem can be exaggerated when surgeons also remove the nasal spine (the bone at the bottom of the tip) and the bottom part of the septum. To figure out which part of your nose we’re talking about, you can feel around just inside your nostrils. First, look around and make sure no one is looking. Now, if you pinch the skin between your nostrils and advance your finger and thumb back a bit, you will feel a firm but wiggly piece of cartilage that is the bottom part of the septum. Are your eyes watering yet?

Maintaining the integrity of this anatomy is critical to ensuring a good, strong result over time. If the above mistakes are made, the columella or structure separating the nostrils can appear to hang down too much, called a hanging columella. Also, the rim of the nostrils can appear pulled back or retracted. Ideally, the distance between the edge of the nostril and the bottom edge of the columella should be no more than a few millimeters. Anything more creates a very unflattering look that resembles a snarl. What’s worse is that breathing can also be affected. These problems can be fixed but it can take a lot of effort including complex cartilage grafting.

Take a look at the imaged photos below to see the final step in improving the appearance of this nose. The photo on the left has only the bridge imaged while the photo on the right also addresses the tip. You can see that the columella is pulled up, the nostril rim is pulled down, and the angle between the tip and the upper lip is better. Notice that the tip still projects outward by the same amount, but it looks so much less dominant and heavy when these problems are corrected.

Partially Imaged Nasal ProfileFully imaged nasal profile including tip improvements

So there you have it. We have illustrated a handful of the most common rhinoplasty mistakes and how we can fix them. There are a lot of sticky details that go into this, and a case such as this can take us many hours to perform.

The photos below show the original post-rhinoplasty picture on the left, the planned changes in the middle, and the imaged ideal result on the right. The green shaded areas are areas to be augmented or built up. The blue shaded areas are areas to be shaved down. This image has obviously been heavily doctored and we make it imperfect on purpose so that we don’t over-sell the possible results. But, you can at least get an idea of what needs to be done to bring this nose back into a balanced and harmonious state.

Poor Post-rhinoplasty ProfileIntended revision rhinoplasty changesFinal imaged result

We hope this was a helpful exercise! Best of luck with your rhinoplasty and let us know if you have any questions or suggestions for future lessons….

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