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What is a Nasal Speculum?

By Pamela Pleasant
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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A nasal speculum is an instrument used to make surgical procedures easier. It enlarges the sinus area, so that it can be clearly observed. An endoscope or other surgical devices can then be used without any obstructions. The surgeon is then able to access certain sinus areas, and at the same time, he can also have both hands free to address any problems. A nasal speculum produces space between the mucosa and the cartilage within the nasal cavity.

Speculums were made to explore cavities within the body for observation. For example, a vaginal speculum makes it possible to view the cervix and vagina. This makes diagnosing a problem less complicated and aids in surgical techniques. There are many kinds of speculums used to penetrate body cavities. Each type of speculum is designed to enter a certain orafice.

The nasal speculum is a metal device that resembles pliers or scissors. It has two grasping points that, when squeezed together, spread open an area. On the end of the speculum, two rounded blades come together to form a circle. These blades are inserted into the nasal passages and by gently squeezing the grasping points, the blades expose the sinuses. The inside of the nasal passage can then be clearly seen by the physician.

Transsphenoidal surgeries typically call for the use of this type of nasal speculum. Small tumors can form in the nasal area and although they are usually benign or non cancerous, they can cause uncomfortable symptoms. These tumors can put pressure on the optic nerves, which can cause loss of vision. They can also cause the body to produce too many pituitary hormones. Occasionally, the tumors will have no negative effect on the nasal passages but if they are too large, they can present these symptomatic problems.

Doctors who need to drain the chest following a surgical procedure may use a nasal speculum. In this case, a speculum is inserted to keep the area clear of pus or blood that can accumulate around the surgical site. The nasal speculum is placed into the chest space with the circular blades open. This allows any fluids to drain away for the site. These blades do not have sharpened edges, so there is no risk of any further injuries to the area.

Using a nasal speculum incorrectly can cause bleeding within the nasal passages. This is typically due to the speculum irritating the sinus area. Infections can also occur when this happens.

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Discussion Comments

By VivAnne — On Sep 05, 2011

I've had my nose examined using a plastic speculum. It was no big deal, the doctor inserted the speculum and slowly pressed the handle together to spread it out. It felt a bit strange, but not painful. I have a good doctor, though, so maybe that's why it didn't leave any irritation or anything afterward.

I'm just glad that I didn't sneeze during the examination...that would have been a complication, you might say!

By TheGraham — On Sep 05, 2011

@malmal - Agreed. Vaginal speculum examination sounds far more uncomfortable on the personal privacy level, too -- at least you don't usually cover your nose with clothing!

I'm curious, do nasal speculums actually stretch the nostrils or do they open the part of your nose just beyond the edges of your nostrils, on the inside where there's more space? I know a speculum doesn't stretch enough to injure, but I'm curious if it could irritate the nostrils or make them sore. Good knowledge to have if I ever have to get my nose examined with a nasal speculum.

By malmal — On Sep 05, 2011

@gimbell - Wow, your name makes me think of gumballs... Uh, anyway, I wanted to comment and reassure you about nasal speculums. I know they look really scary, and the concept sounds uncomfortable or even painful, but please believe me when I say that they will not injure you. Discomfort, maybe. Injury, no.

Nasal speculums are designed to fit into somebody's nose. They won't stretch it to some painful size. They're a medical tool, so you can be assured that the designer was careful to invent something that would help you, not hurt you. I've seen a nasal speculum in use (I'm a medical student), and the patient, a small child, didn't even complain about discomfort.

As far as intimidating-looking medical tools go, I would have to consider vaginal and anal speculums to be a lot scarier than a nasal speculum. Even they don't hurt, though -- a speculum examination is always done gently and carefully when done by a medical professional.

By gimbell — On Sep 04, 2011

Ugh -- you can put nasal speculum on my list of medical implements that seem like they belong in a horror movie.

I guess since we go to the dentist starting at a young age, people are much more comfortable with each things stuck in their mouths and holding their mouths open, because that doesn't weird me out nearly as much as the thought of sticking a device up my nose and stretching it open.

Doesn't it hurt? I don't know about anybody else, but I don't think my nose is very stretchy. I've got my fingers crossed that I never end up having to have one of these things used on me.

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