A surgical face mask, also called a sterile medical face mask, is designed to be worn during surgical treatments by health care workers. Surgical masks are designed to prevent infections from staff and patients by trapping microorganisms in the mouth and nose of the wearer, and shedding airborne pathogens in liquid droplets and mist droppings from the mouth and nose of the patient. Although they are often used for surgical operations, these masks are also used during routine patient care in doctor’s offices, dental offices, hospitals, nursing homes, laboratories and clinics. Masks are usually worn by medical staff because they offer maximum protection from infection and disease. They also ensure that the sterile equipment used for surgical procedures is maintained at all times.
When a surgical mask is worn, the nasal cavity is covered with the mask’s lining. The inner surface of the mask should be clean and dry, and dust and debris should be removed before the first procedure. A sterile nasal cannula is inserted into the nostril of the wearer, and saline solution is sprayed into the mask to maintain optimal nasal hygiene. Usually a disposable plastic syringe is attached to the mask’s liner, which contains pre-soaked cotton swabs for cleaning, wiping and removing moisture from the liquid droplets contained in the spray.
The tip of the disposable nose clip is placed over the tip of the nose, and a bandage is worn over the head, over the top of the mask and below the tip of the nose. The nose clip may be adjusted to loosen air pressure around the face mask. Then the surgeon pulls a line across the top of the mask to mark the location of the exhalation valve. This valve, also called an Exhalation Valve (HEV), should be placed directly over the breathing passage for breathing and should be placed perpendicular to the natural curvature of the cranium. The Exhalation Valve may be rotated slightly during the fitting process, to ensure that the correct position is achieved.
Nose clips are used in conjunction with the face masks. The nose clips are placed on the outside of the nostrils so that they cannot slip down. A plastic ring, which serves as a relief valve, is then placed on top of the Exhalation Valve to hold it in place. Because some people have excessive facial sweating, doctors may also use a nasal strip or nebulizer. A soft, flexible plastic tube, which looks like a nose bulb, is placed into the nebulizer and its purpose is to catch excess moisture and allow it to drain before entering the lungs. These devices are generally not used during the process of rhinoplasty.
The doctor may decide not to wear a face mask during certain procedures. For example, he may want to wear a nose clip during a surgical procedure where the nose will be covered by the patient’s nasal cavities. The doctor will typically wear nose clips during procedures where the patient will be sedated, such as those requiring general anesthesia.
Although some practitioners prefer not to wear face masks, others encourage it. One of these reasons is to prevent against the spread of bacteria from one part of the body to another. If a person has a cold, for example, he or she may feel uncomfortable having to wear a face mask. The same goes for those who smoke. Smoking tends to make people sweat more, which in turn increases the spread of bacteria.