The nose has an extremely effective, precise, and delicate anatomy that is ultimately responsible for its shape, its proportions, and its position. To reconstruct this anatomy freely and precisely, in special cases, it may be necessary to resort to cartilage grafts obtained from a rib. In this article, we will see why the rib is chosen as a source of grafts, what advantages it has, how it is used, and what complications can arise.

Why we choose the rib in some secondary rhinoplasties

As we saw in another post related to the use of grafts in rhinoplasty, these are frequently necessary for patients with a history of rhinoplasty or previous trauma. This need is given by the fact that we will need to redo, supplementary, or replace the anatomical structures of the nose that have been damaged and cannot be reconstructed. The problem is that to carry out these works; we will need a quantity of cartilage large enough to cover our needs.

Under normal conditions, the nasal septum or atrial cartilage shell offers sufficient quantity and quality of cartilage to meet the needs of uncomplicated secondary rhinoplasty. Both structures can offer us between 2 and 4 cm2 of useful surface that is usually enough to make partial corrections at the tip and / or the back.

But we can meet special patients in whom:

  • We appreciate especially serious anatomical and / or scarring alterations.
  • We cannot resort to the nasal septum or the ear shells because they are already operated or damaged (by a perforation, for example).
  • The ears are intact, and the septum is not operated, but we need enough straight and flat segments of cartilage, or we need surfaces larger than 4 cm2.
  • In addition to a broad and straight cartilage surface, we need soft tissue segments such as the fascia or perichondrium of the cartilage.
  • We need to make a cartilage “paste” that allows us to model complicated areas of the nose without distortion and whose manufacture consumes a lot of cartilage.

What are the advantages of using rib in secondary rhinoplasties?

The fundamental benefits of using the rib as a source of cartilage grafts are several:

  • Have a generous source of strong, easily carvable cartilage.
  • To be able to obtain grafts of the desired shape: Laminar, curved, thin, or thick. A cartilage “paste” can also be obtained with which to model and refine complicated areas.
  • Being able to obtain generous segments of the perichondrium (the envelope of all the cartilage in the body) or fascia without having to resort to additional sources (such as the fascia of the temple area).

Thanks to this versatility we can do some things like:

  • Reconstruct the wing cartilage in its entirety, generating a totally new tip in shape and position.
  • Reconstruct the external and internal valves to improve nasal obstructions.
  • Reconstruct the dorsal lines of the nose or elevate the dorsum in cases of V deformity, open roof, or over-resections of the dorsum.
  • Reconstruct an absent or perforated septal septum.
  • Check the position of the tip to de-rotate and hold it.

It should be borne in mind that a large part of these benefits depend on the experience and ability of the surgeon to carve the rib accurately and correctly (in the same way that a sculptor has to know the structure of a specific wood in order to obtain the desired shape without spoiling it).