Nasal Stent after Cleft Lip Surgery: Caring for your Child at Home

What is a nasal stent?

A nasal stent (also called a nostril splint) is a pair of small soft tubes, each about as thick as a straw. The stent is placed in your child's nostrils after cleft lip surgery to help the nostrils keep their shape while the surgery wound is healing.  

Your child will need to use the nasal stent for up to a year after cleft lip surgery. Your child's surgeon will give you more details.

Instructions about the stent before your child leaves the hospital

Before your child leaves the hospital, your child's nurse will teach you:

  • how to remove and replace the nasal stent
  • how to clean the nasal stent
  • what to do if there is a problem.

Removing and cleaning the nasal stent

The nasal stent stays in your child's nostrils almost all the time. It is normally only removed before feeding your child or cleaning their face, or as instructed by your child's surgeon. Removing the stent before feeding your child will allow them to eat more easily because their nostrils will not be blocked.

Every time you remove the stent, you will need to clean it before re-inserting it in your child's nostrils. 

How to clean the stent before re-inserting it

  1. Put a plug or towel in the sink. This will prevent the stent from going down the drain.
  2. Clean the stent well with mild soap and warm water.
  3. Insert a clean cotton swab into the stent to clean the inside and make sure the tube is clear.
  4. Rinse the stent well and dry it fully.

Inserting the stent

  1. Gather the clean stent, a hole punch, some clean tape and a water-soluble jelly such as K-Y® Jelly.
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  1. Measure from mid-cheek on one side of your child's nose to mid-cheek on the other side. Cut a strip of tape to this length. It is better to have more tape than less.
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  1. Mark two dots on the cut piece of tape, one for each hole in the stent.
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  1. Make two holes with the hole punch.
  2. Have someone firmly but gently hold your child still. If there is nobody to help you, bundle up your child well so that their hands cannot get in the way.
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  1. Moisten the stent with a little water or a drop of the water-soluble jelly. Check to make sure the long side of the stent is the side against your child's face.
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  1. Gently slide the stent in place, putting one tube in each nostril, just as your child's nurse showed you. Don't push too hard, as this could hurt your child and damage the cleft lip repair.
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  1. Line up the holes in the tape with the holes in the stent.
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  1. Use the tape to securely attach the stent to your child's face.
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What to do if you have difficulty inserting the stent

  1. Check to see that the stent is right side up. If the stent is inserted correctly, the white dots on the stent should be on the bottom.
  2. Moisten your child's nose with a little water or water-soluble jelly and try to slip one side of the stent into each nostril in turn.

If you still cannot re-insert the stent, contact the plastic surgeon's office.

​​Surgeon's name:    _________________________  

Phone number:       ____________________________

How to avoid losing the stent

  • Make sure the stent is always secured in place with tape.
  • Watch your child regularly while they are awake to check that the stent has not fallen out.
  • When you wash the stent, always plug the drain with a towel or stopper.

What to do if you lose the stent

  • Check to see if the stent has fallen into your child's mouth or onto their bedding, clothing or diaper.
  • Call your plastic surgeon's office to ask about getting a new stent. You may be charged for a replacement.

What to do if your child has a cold or a runny nose

If your child develops a cold or a runny nose, clean their nostrils every time you remove the stent, or more often if necessary. If the nasal tubes remain blocked and your child has problems breathing through their nose, you may have to leave the stent out for a day or two.

Cindy Guernsey, RN BScN

​At SickKids:

If you find it difficult to re-insert the stent, call the plastic surgery resident on call at 416-813-7500 and be prepared to take your child to the hospital.

If you have any other concerns, please call your plastic surgeon's office or the co-ordinator of the Cleft Lip and Palate Program at 416-813-7491 for instructions.

Your child's first nasal stent is free, but if it is lost or damaged, you will need to pay for a replacement. Each stent costs at least $200.