Question: I am looking to have revision rhinoplasty and one doctor I met and consulted with suggested using rib cartilage. What does this involve and is there any risk?
Answer: Use of rib cartilage is a standard technique for rhinoplasty when large amounts of cartilage are needed to correct extensive deformities. In many cases, the patient’s septal cartilage was used in a previous rhinoplasty and is no longer available or sufficient. Some other alternatives to rib cartilage include cadaveric cartilage or synthetic materials, although some patients do not choose these options due to expense or personal reasons. All the above materials can yield good results however. To harvest rib cartilage, the surgeon will make an incision (typically 3-4 inches long) along the lower ribcage. In female patients, the incision can often be hidden under the fold of the breast. A section of cartilage is then removed and the incision is closed in a straight line. The biggest risk involved in harvesting rib cartilage is injury to the lung (pneumothorax). It is rare for an experienced plastic surgeon to have this complication, and most instances of pneumothorax are not life-threatening and can be treated.