Nasal splints control bleeding by immobilising bones and tissues of the nose. They also prevent intranasal adhesions, where scar tissue from nasal surgery can block the nasal cavity. Nasal splints may be needed after plastic surgery (rhinoplasty) or to repair an injury damaged or congenitally deviated (misaligned) septum. The septum is a thin bone in the back of the nose responsible for separating the nasal passages. Either external or internal splints may be used by doctors.
External plastic nasal splints cause fewer irritations to a patient than internal splints, although these splits are bulkier than silicon inserts. These splints use thermoplastic, which is covered in soft foam. Plastic splints are cut to size to match the nostrils of the patient. These splints feature an adhesive backing so that the splint can be removed for temporary relief while the patient’s nose is healing.
External aluminium nasal splints have an inner core of aluminium which is coated in a soft foam covering. Unlike plastic or foam splints, aluminium splints only come in a few standard sizes. These splints may be removed for the temporary comfort of a patient, and stick to the nose via adhesives on the wings of the splint. Aluminium splints offer increased protection for recently repaired nasal bones and tissue, due to the hard properties of aluminium metal.
During surgery, doctors will often use temporary plastic splints in order to reduce bleeding of the nose. These splints are made of soft silicon in order to keep the nasal passages open while the surgeon is operating. The slight compression of the surgical nose splint will prevent blood from obstructing the air flow of the patient. When finished with a surgery, a surgeon will remove the splints and use sutures (stitches) to hold the structure of the nose in place. Temporary surgical splints are most commonly used in open rhinoplasty surgery, where external incisions create more bleeding but provide easier access for the surgeon.
According to the Royal National Throat Nose and Ear Hospital in London, UK, silicon is the most common material used for nasal splints. After doctors finish repairing a nose, they may insert silicon splints into both nostrils. These are usually short-term splints that are only kept in the nasal passageways for about a week. For smaller operations, doctors may choose not to use a splint at all. The main purpose of the silicon splint is to prevent the septum and the internal wall of a nostril from fusing together. In addition, silicon splints provide some support for the nose while it heals. Doctors usually attach silicon using thin strips of adhesive tape and a single stitch. Silicon splints usually feature a small perforated hole to provide additional airflow for a healing patient.