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More than Skin Deep: Rhinoplasty Surgery Improves Quality of Life for Patient, Restores Ability to Breathe

Hannah Brewer has always had problems breathing through her nose. 

For many years, Brewer thought all of her breathing issues were caused by seasonal allergies. There were even times when the 25-year-old wondered if it was really an issue at all. 

“I thought that’s how everyone else in the world was breathing,” she said. 

After watching a video on TikTok about common breathing issues related to a deviated septum, Brewer began to wonder if her breathing troubles were more than just allergies.

Initially, she saw a doctor who confirmed that she did have seasonal allergies and sent her on her way with a plan to manage the symptoms. A year later, after nothing improved, Brewer made an appointment with a provider at University of Utah Health. 

Hannah Brewer, rhinoplasty patient at U of U Health
Hannah Brewer, rhinoplasty patient

“When I went to the U, they let me know I definitely had a deviated septum, along with some other issues that were restricting my breathing,” Brewer said. “That appointment was a much better, more thorough experience.” 

Because the functional changes would change the look of her nose slightly, Brewer decided to explore some cosmetic changes. 

“I guess I just figured if they are already going to be working on my nose, and I’m going to go through this entire recovery process, then I might as well have them make a few cosmetic changes,” Brewer said.

She was then referred to Sarah R. Akkina, MD, MS, the Director of Facial Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery in the Department of Otolaryngoloy – Head and Neck Surgery at University of Utah Health. Akkina is the only U of U Health provider who does both functional and cosmetic rhinoplasties as a single surgeon. 

“When I first met Dr. Akkina, I immediately liked her,” Brewer said. “She’s so good at explaining things and making you feel like you know what’s going on. She is amazing and deserves a lot of credit.” 

While Brewer has never hated her nose, it has been a bit crooked her entire life. 

“I talked to Dr. Akkina about the cosmetic changes I was thinking about, and she told me it would be a few small tweaks that would make a really big difference in the look of my nose,” Brewer said. “That’s how I decided to fully commit to that part of the surgery, in addition to the functional changes.” 

Brewer is a self-proclaimed perfectionist and was grateful for Akkina’s thorough approach at every appointment. 

"I had a lot of questions leading up to the surgery, and Dr. Akkina did a really good job of setting expectations. She laid things out for me really clearly, and even had digitally altered photos of my nose to show me what it would potentially look like after surgery. She really helped me understand what I was getting myself into, and it turned out even better than I thought it would.”
Hanna Brewster Rhinoplasty patient

Brewer had her rhinoplasty surgery on January 19, 2023. The functional portion of the surgery included straightening her septum and strengthening the sidewalls of her nose with cartilage. Akkina also addressed Brewer’s enlarged turbinates, small bones in the nose that were another cause of her restricted breathing. The cosmetic changes included reducing the dorsal hump and nasal tip and making the nose more symmetrical. 

Since surgery, things have been smooth sailing for Brewer. 

“I know everybody is different, but I’m lucky that my recovery went a lot better than I thought it would,” she said. “I hardly had any bruising, and right off the bat my pain levels weren’t too bad either. I feel like it’s been healing really nicely.” 

After a rhinoplasty, it takes up to 18 months for the swelling to go down. Just six months after surgery, Brewer is extremely happy with the results. More importantly, she can breathe. 

“Being able to breathe… I’m not going to lie, every single day I am so grateful I did the surgery,” she said. “It’s crazy. I didn’t know this is how other people breathe, and it’s such an amazing feeling. Especially when I’m working out or hiking, that’s when I really notice the difference. I’ve leveled up and I’m so happy.” 

Brewer has also noticed a change in her mental health since having the surgery. 

“I’ve never been diagnosed with anxiety, but I’ve always had anxiety around breathing and moments where I can’t get full breaths,” she said. “That is something that has dropped significantly since surgery. That alone makes the whole experience worth it. It’s boosted my quality of life and made such a difference to my mental health.” 

Meet Facial Plastic Surgeon Sarah Akkina, MD, MS