Nicky needs to know… I’m having sinus surgery on my nose but my doctor said to be sure not to wear nail polish during surgery. I can’t figure out what nail polish on my fingers has to do with an operation on my nose. I’m too embarrassed to ask my doctor. Can you explain it for me?
The Left Brain responds:
Nicky, we’re cosmetic scientists, not medical professionals, but we can guess why your doctor is concerned about your nail polish.
During surgery doctors track vital signs like your heart rate, blood pressure, and the amount of oxygen in your blood. Blood oxygenation is measured using a little device that clamps on to your finger which is known as a “pulse oximeter.” The oximeter works by shining light through your finger nail and measuring how much light is absorbed. The more light that is absorbed, the more oxygen that is in your blood. Your doctor could be worried that nail polish could interfere with this measurement. But is this concern valid?
Interestingly, the answer may be “no.” A study conducted at the University of Southern California has shown that nail polish does NOT interfere with the pulse oximetry. The study revealed that neither nail polish nor artificial nails significantly interfered with light absorption from the device.
So, does that mean you can ignore your doctor’s advice and where a nice shade of OPI to your sinus surgery? I’m afraid not! There’s another reason that wearing nail polish in the operating room is a bad idea. Surgeons have a “backup” way to check blood oxygen just in case the pulse oximeter fails. It’s called “looking at your nails.” If your blood oxygen drops to a dangerously low level, your finger nails will start to turn blue. Nail polish will mask this color change so the doctor won’t be able to visually check your blood oxygen. The risk is very low, but by keeping your nails unpolished you’re helping your doctor keep you safe.
Beautiful nails are not worth the risk! Even though the odds of anything going wrong in your surgery are very small you should still listen to your doctor’s advice and NOT wear nail polish the day of your procedure.