In the fascinating field of plastic surgery, doctors use a wide range of materials to carefully craft facial features for a patient. For many facial surgeries, a cartilage graft is necessary. Doctors have tried many different types of material for grafting, and they find that cartilage harvested from the patient’s own ribs can be one of the most effective options. Rib cartilage has many uses in facial plastic surgery.
Keep reading to learn all about the purposes and process of removing rib cartilage and grafting it onto the face.
When Are Facial Cartilage Grafts Necessary?
A facial graft is a plastic surgery technique that involves attaching matter to the bones or cartilage of the face. It is used whenever a person needs volume built in a certain area. Cartilage is a firm substance that is only slightly softer than bone, so it is only used in areas of the face that require a lot of support and structure. The most common use for a cartilage graft is along the nasal area. However, it may also be needed to reconstruct the ears or repair cleft lips and other malformations of the midface area.
Cartilage grafts are particularly common in revision rhinoplasties, where the doctor is adding back material to replace a nose that was overly contoured, but they can also be necessary in first time rhinoplasties. Cartilage grafts in the nose have a few different purposes. In some cases, a graft is structural. It provides support for the tip and bridge of the nose, so the patient can breathe more easily. A cartilage graft may also be used for aesthetic appearances. It can build up a nose bridge to make it look less flat or alter the shape of the bridge to keep it from drooping.
Why Use Rib Cartilage Grafts Instead of Other Material?
Of course it is possible to use synthetic materials for grafts and implants. However, these are normally associated with far worse outcomes. Roughly 5 percent of patients with synthetic implants end up with an infection or implant rejection. This leads to a lot of nasty inflammation that eventually turns into tough scar tissue that is even tougher to remove. Synthetics like Medpor, silicone, and Gore-Tex do not always hold up very well, and when they break down, the results can be quite unpleasant.
Donor cartilage from human cadavers is another possible alternative to rib cartilage harvesting in some situations, but like synthetics, there is a high risk of the cartilage breaking down or the body rejecting it. Due to all of these concerns, a lot of surgeons find it best to stick with cartilage grafts from the patient’s body. Though it does cause an inconvenient second surgical site, it is much easier for the body to integrate its own tissue into a stable structure on the face. Whenever possible a surgeon will use cartilage from the patient’s nose or ear for the surgery. However, if the patient does not have any cartilage to spare in these regions, they will take it from the ribs.
What Is the Process of Harvesting and Grafting Rib Cartilage Like?
Once you and your plastic surgeon decide that a rib cartilage graft is necessary, the surgery will be schedule for the same day as your rhinoplasty. Once you are under general anesthetic, they will make an incision of roughly four to six centimeters in length. The doctor will normally separate muscle fibers instead of cutting them to ensure a good recovery. Once they have reached the site of the cartilage, which is usually the eighth and ninth ribs, they will remove the cartilage, suture the area, replace the surrounding soft tissue, and suture the skin.
Once the cartilage is harvested, the surgeon will proceed to the surgery that involves placing the rib cartilage in its new position. To prevent the graft from slipping out of place, the surgeon will carefully suture it into place. They may then place fat or other tissue over the cartilage to ensure an even appearance once it is covered with skin. Healing with a cartilage graft is normally no different than a regular rhinoplasty recovery time. Over time, the cartilage implant will bond with the tissue underneath and become even more stable.
How Can You Tell If a Cartilage Graft is Right for You?
You may need a cartilage graft if your nose is scooped, humped, or drooping. The firmness of a cartilage graft can help to provide extra volume in nasal reconstruction cases and revision rhinoplasties. It can even be helpful if you are not trying to make your nose look larger because added height from a cartilage graft can create the illusion of a narrower nose. Cartilage grafts may also be necessary in many other types of facial reconstruction surgery. Rib cartilage will be used over other donor sites if you do not have the option of taking cartilage from your ear or nose. Each plastic surgery patient is different, so you will need to consult with a doctor to see if it would be a good option for your case.
If you are interested in learning more about cartilage grafts, get in touch with the Plastic Surgery Institute of Miami.PSI Miami is a group of board certified surgeons that specialize in minimally invasive procedures. The Plastic Surgery Institute of Miami are a team dedicated to providing high-quality plastic surgery in the Miami area. Call 305.446.7700 or message them online to find out if a cartilage graft can provide a good outcome for your situation. Please visit their site at www.psimiami.com.