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The History of Rhinoplasty

By Peter Brownrigg on October 14, 2016

A woman's face covered in shadowToday, many people who are unhappy with the appearance of their nose turn to rhinoplasty to achieve their desired look. With rhinoplasty, subtle changes to the nose can help enhance facial balance and improve the profile. While modern rhinoplasty is both a science and nuanced art form, this wasn't always the case as you will find in this overview of the history of rhinoplasty from Ottawa, ON plastic surgeon Peter Brownrigg.

The Beginnings of Rhinoplasty

Rhinoplasty dates back to 3000 BCE in ancient Egypt, when a common punishment for criminals was cutting off the nose. As a result, Ancient Egyptian doctors developed procedures to rebuild the nose.

In 500 BCE, India followed a similar practice of cutting off the noses of criminals. Using a technique from the Egyptians, Sushruta, an Indian doctor, began reconstructing the noses. Sushruta is also credited with pioneering a new technique for rhinoplasty, called the forehead flap rhinoplasty, which laid the foundation for modern methods.

Rhinoplasty was also performed in the Roman Empire but with an emphasis on correcting congenital defects.

Rhinoplasty as Purely Reconstructive

Rhinoplasty continued to be used for reconstructive purposes as evidenced by the Italian surgeon Gasparo Tagliacozzi's medical text called The Surgery of Defects by Implantations, written in 1597. Tagliacozzi described in detail rhinoplasty procedures he performed on soldiers who suffered facial wounds in battle.

One technique in the text describes a case in which the patient's nose was reconstructed using a flap of skin from the bicep. The arm was attached to the patient's head for three weeks to allow the tissue to attach itself to the nose. After the tissue sufficiently attached, the arm was released and two additional weeks were needed to more finely shape the skin around the nose.

By the 1800s, rhinoplasty continued to be performed for reconstructive purposes. Most rhinoplasty procedures were performed on soldiers whose noses were destroyed during war.

Around 1815, German surgeon Karl Ferdinand von Gräfe pushed plastic surgery techniques forward, create the most advanced technique at the time, called free-graft nasal reconstruction.

In 1887, American surgeon John Orlando Roe performed the first closed rhinoplasty. He is also credited as the first surgeon to use rhinoplasty as a truly cosmetic treatment when he performed the procedure on a man who suffered from agoraphobia due to the appearance of his nose.

Rhinoplasty in the 20th Century and Beyond

Rhinoplasty continued to be performed to reconstruct damaged noses throughout the 20th century but, thanks to advances in surgical techniques, more surgeons began using rhinoplasty to address cosmetic issues. By the 1950s, rhinoplasty began to resemble the surgery as we know it today and was performed as a means to enhance the appearance, making it popular among those in Hollywood and the fashionable elite. 

Today, rhinoplasty is still used to reconstruct damaged noses and deformities, as well as to improve breathing or enhance the overall appearance. Techniques have advanced, allowing for less invasive methods, reduced scarring, and faster recovery.

Are You a Candidate for Rhinoplasty?

For more information about rhinoplasty, or to find out if you're a candidate, we invite you to schedule a consultation with Dr. Brownrigg.

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Ottawa Office

1525 Carling Ave
Ste 608
Ottawa, ON K1Z 8R9

More Info Directions (613) 724-1214