Nasal Polyp Surgery: Recovery

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Nasal polyps are benign (noncancerous) growths in the lining of your nose or sinuses that can significantly impact your breathing. If medications haven't been successful with shrinking them, you might have them surgically removed. Learn more about recovery from nasal polyps surgery in this article.

Man talking with doctor

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Surgery Follow-Up

Nasal polyp surgery is an outpatient procedure, so you'll be going home after you've recovered from anesthesia. This can take a couple of hours. During the surgery, your doctor will insert an endoscope (flexible, thin tube with a camera and light at the end of it) and tools, such as a microdebrider, through your nostrils to remove the polyps.

Your doctor will schedule a follow-up visit most likely within the first week after surgery. You'll have several more appointments for about four to six weeks after surgery. At these appointments, you can expect your doctor to clean your nose and sinuses to remove any excess buildup and reduce the risk of scarring in the affected area.

Postoperative cleaning can be uncomfortable—your doctor might recommend that you take an over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription pain medication prior to these appointments. Bring someone with you in case you don't feel up to driving afterward.

Recovery Timeline

You can expect to be tired for about a week after nasal polyp surgery, so plan to be out of work for at least this amount of time. However, depending on your job duties, you might have to wait even longer.

After this procedure, you won't be allowed to exercise at full capacity until two weeks have passed. This also means that you can't lift anything heavier than five to 10 pounds, and you will need to avoid bending and straining as well.

The healing process is typically complete after four to six weeks.

Coping with Recovery

After nasal polyp surgery, you may have some side effects to deal with for up to six weeks as your body heals.

Immediately After Surgery

Immediately after surgery, you'll have a gauze dressing below your nose to absorb blood. Your nose may continue to bleed for three to five days after surgery. This is normal. Change your gauze as needed as it becomes saturated with blood and dab your nose with a tissue.

Your doctor may pack your nose with gauze after surgery. If this is the case, do not remove the packing yourself. The doctor will do this at your first follow-up visit.

If the bleeding is continuous, tilt your head back a little bit and breathe slowly through your nose. OTC nasal sprays can also be used to help stop excess bleeding only if cleared by your surgeon. Contact your doctor if this treatment does not help to slow your bleeding.

Your nose will feel stuffy, or congested, and you may feel pressure in your sinuses for about a week after surgery due to swelling. Resist the urge to blow your nose—this can make your bleeding worse. Placing an ice pack on your nose can also help.

Sit in a semi-reclined position to help relieve pressure in your nose and sinuses. You might even consider sleeping with your upper body propped up for a few days to improve your breathing. The good news is your breathing should return to normal within two to three weeks after your surgery.

The Day After Surgery and Later

Beginning the day after surgery, you'll perform sinus flushes (also called irrigations) twice per day. This usually involves squirting liquid, such as distilled water or saline, into your nostrils to rinse out blood and debris. Your doctor will provide specific instructions and teach you how to perform these flushes.

Experiencing Drainage?

You can expect to have drainage from your nose for several weeks. This might be dark brown (old blood) or even yellow or white. This is normal.

As with any surgery, you'll have some pain after nasal polyp surgery. OTC pain medications, such as Tylenol, can help. But, your doctor will probably prescribe pain medication to be used in the first few days after surgery.

However, anti-inflammatory medications, such as aspirin, Advil (ibuprofen), or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) need to be avoided for two weeks after surgery. These medications can increase bleeding.

When to Call the Doctor

Although drainage is to be expected after surgery, there are some side effects to watch for. Call your doctor if you experience any of the following:

  • Fever of 101 degrees Fahrenheit (or higher)
  • Changes in your vision
  • Worsening headaches
  • Bleeding that is not relieved with nasal spray
  • Constant, clear drainage after post-op week one
  • Neck stiffness
  • Frequent diarrhea
  • Pain that is not relieved with your medications
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

A Word From Verywell

If you've got nasal polyps, you may not always need surgery. Medications are often used to shrink the polyps, which can be enough to relieve your symptoms. If this doesn't work, your doctor will talk to you about surgery.

While nasal polyp removal surgery is inconvenient, it can significantly improve your quality of life. You'll be able to breathe better, which will help you be more active and get better sleep. Follow your surgeon's instructions carefully for the best recovery after your procedure.

3 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Viera-Artiles J, Corriols-Noval P, López-Simón E, González-Aguado R, Lobo D, Megía R. In-office endoscopic nasal polypectomy: prospective analysis of patient tolerability and efficacy. Eur Arch Otorhinolaryngol. Doi:10.1007%2Fs00405-020-06196-0

  2. Johns Hopkins Medicine. What to expect after endoscopic sinus surgery.

  3. National Jewish Health. Endoscopic sinus surgery postoperative care.

By Aubrey Bailey, PT, DPT, CHT
Aubrey Bailey is a physical therapist and professor of anatomy and physiology with over a decade of experience providing in-person and online education for medical personnel and the general public, specializing in the areas of orthopedic injury, neurologic diseases, developmental disorders, and healthy living.