Nose splints are small plastic or silicone devices used to stabilize the nose after nasal surgery.
Some nose splints are used after elective nose surgery. But it’s important to know how to recognize symptoms of a broken nose or other conditions that may warrant nasal surgery, splints, and other care.
The procedures used to put the splints in place are relatively simple. Before you leave the hospital, your doctor or a nurse should explain how to care for them and how long they should remain in place.
Read on to learn what nose splints are used for, how the procedure works, and what to expect after getting a nose splint for a broken nose or other condition.
There are two types of nose splints:
- Internal nose splints are worn in the nostrils and attached with a few stitches.
- External nose splints are worn outside the nose. They’re held in place with medical tape or bandages or are “glued” to the skin with an adhesive that dissolves after several days.
Splints serve two very important purposes:
- Stabilize the tissue that has just been operated on.
- Protect the nose as it heals.
A nose splint is used after various types of nasal surgery, including:
The choice of external or internal splints is decided by the kind of surgery that’s performed. Here are some common surgeries that will require either an internal or external splint.
After a rhinoplasty, your surgeon tapes an external nose splint to the outside of the nose to stabilize the nasal tissue that has been treated.
Septoplasty surgery helps straighten the septum to improve breathing.
After a septoplasty, the nasal cavity is filled with cotton or gauze, and an internal splint (sometimes called an intranasal splint) is placed in each nostril.
The internal splints help stabilize the treated septum and compress the septum to help reduce bleeding complications.
You may need nasal surgery to remove blockages that aren’t caused by a crooked (deviated) septum.
For example, removing nasal polyps from the nasal cavity can be done surgically. Intranasal splints are often implanted following other types of nasal surgery as well.
Nasal fracture surgery
Sometimes, a broken nose can be realigned using only your own or your doctor’s hands. But in serious cases, surgery may be necessary to repair and restore the nose to its original size and shape as closely as possible.
Nose splints are used because the size and shape of the nose, nostrils, or septum is different after a nasal surgery than before the surgery.
Splints help maintain the new shape and size until the fragile tissue heals. Splints also offer some protection if you accidentally bump your nose in the days after surgery.
Intranasal splints are slightly curved tubes that start at the opening of the nostril and extend a short way into the nasal cavity.
An external nose splint is shaped like a trapezoid. The narrower end is placed across the upper bridge of the nose so that the wider end can cover the lower part of the nose.
You can purchase external nose splints online or at a medical supply store. But these splints are typically used to protect the nose from continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) masks that treat obstructive sleep apnea.
You shouldn’t need to buy your own nose splints after surgery. The nose splints supplied by your doctor after your surgery should suffice and remain in place until they’re no longer needed.
Here are the procedures used to insert both an external and internal nose splint.
External nose splint
A rhinoplasty is one of the most common procedures that requires an external nose splint. After a rhinoplasty, the nose is bandaged and a flexible external nose splint is placed over the bandage to hug the nose securely.
An additional bandage may be placed over the splint and wrapped around your head for the first day or so. External splints are removed when the bandages are taken off.
Internal nose splint
After a surgery requiring an internal nose splint, the surgeon implants one splint in each nostril, attaching them temporarily to the inside wall of the nostril with a stitch or two.
After a few days or a week, you’ll return to your doctor’s office and have both the stitches and splints removed.
An external nose splint is usually left in place for about a week or two after rhinoplasty.
After a routine septoplasty, you should expect to have internal splints in place for a few days or up to a week or so.
Here are some tips for what to do and what not to do when you have a nose splint after a surgery:
- You may need to change the dressing over the splint. Be sure to get proper instructions before leaving the hospital.
- Avoid getting external nose splints and the site of the operation for the first several days.
- If your nose splint loosens or falls out after a sneeze within 48 hours of your surgery, call your doctor’s office and ask for instructions as soon as possible. If this happens after 48 hours following your surgery, this isn’t typically a major issue.
- Call your doctor or seek immediate medical attention if you notice excessive bleeding or have a fever after your nose surgery.
- Use saline sprays to help reduce mucus buildup around an internal splint. Internal nose splints have hollow tubes for easier breathing, but mucus buildup can still make it hard to breathe.
- Internal nose splints can be uncomfortable and may make your nose look wider while they are implanted. But this is only temporary until they’re removed, when you’ll see your actual nose shape.
Trauma to the nose from a sports injury, car accident, fall, or other cause can fracture the bone or cartilage if the impact is powerful enough.
See your doctor if you believe you’ve broken your nose. Some of the more common symptoms of a broken nose are:
- pain inside or around your nose
- a crooked nose
- swelling of the nose or around the nose
- bleeding from the nose
- bruising around the eyes
You may also benefit from nasal surgery if you have difficulty breathing through your nose.
Nose splints, whether worn on the inside or outside, are typically part of the post-operative care for most surgeries involving the nose.
In some cases, external nose splints may not be necessary. Talk with your doctor about the best approach to protecting your nose while it heals.
Intranasal splints, though uncomfortable for a few days, are helpful in ensuring a positive outcome after surgery.