Nasal Obstruction and Rhinoplasty: A Focused Literature Review

Aesthetic Plast Surg. 2020 Oct;44(5):1658-1669. doi: 10.1007/s00266-020-01710-5. Epub 2020 Apr 23.


Background: There is a significant variation in the assessment, treatment, and outcomes of nasal airway obstruction and management in the published literature. This study aimed to: (1) define key components of the nasal airway, (2) identify frequent causes of nasal obstruction, and (3) review existing treatment methods.

Methods: A systematic review of the literature was performed, and 135 studies were included via the following criteria: English, human subjects, and a primary endpoint of nasal airway improvement. Exclusion criteria were: abstract only, no airway data, pediatric patients, cleft rhinoplasty, sleep apnea, isolated traumatic nasal reconstruction, and cadaveric-only or animal studies.

Results: The relevant obstructive sites include the ENV, septum, inferior turbinates, INV, and nasal bones. Addressing the alar rim alone may be insufficient, and inspection of the lateral wall and crura may be indicated. Correction of septal deviation involves attention to the bony base. Mucosal sparing treatment of inferior turbinates improves outcomes. INVs are a major source of nasal obstruction, and treatment includes spreader grafts. The bony nasal vault can contribute to nasal obstruction, including due to surgical osteotomies.

Conclusions: Anatomic causes of airway obstruction include the alar rims and lateral nasal walls, deviated nasal septum, inferior turbinate hypertrophy, decreased INV angle, and narrowed nasal bones. Treatments include graft placement; septoplasty; mucosal sparing turbinectomy; and lateral wall support. Pitfalls include failing to address the bony septum, over-resection of inferior turbinates, and narrowing of the nasal vault. Appreciation of airway management during rhinoplasty will improve functional outcomes.

Level of evidence v: This journal requires that authors assign a level of evidence to each article. For a full description of these Evidence-Based Medicine ratings, please refer to the Table of Contents or the online Instructions to Authors .

Keywords: Airway; Nasal obstruction; Rhinoplasty.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Humans
  • Nasal Obstruction* / etiology
  • Nasal Obstruction* / surgery
  • Nasal Septum / surgery
  • Rhinoplasty*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Turbinates / surgery