Cartilage grafts are a major part of the rhinoplasty process, and nearly every modern nasal surgery procedure uses them to some extent. Rhinoplasty grafts are small pieces of cartilage that are specially shaped to help give the nose structure and shape for a strong foundation and high aesthetic appeal. Today, most cartilage grafts are taken from the patient’s own tissue, at a few potential sites around the body. This method makes for generally good results and low rejection rate, but as technology improves, the possibility for even better grafts in the future is an exciting prospect in the field of rhinoplasty.
Why Grafts Are Important
Without grafts, surgeons would have no material with which to shape the nose during rhinoplasty. Even in reduction surgeries, it is often necessary to augment and shape some areas of the nose. Natural cartilage grafts are preferred to synthetic alternatives due to their natural appearance and low rejection rate.
Current Harvesting and Shaping of Grafts
There are three main locations for cartilage harvest in rhinoplasty: the nasal septum, the ear, and the rib. Each location has its pros and cons for grafting, and when there is not enough cartilage available in a given location, it must be supplemented using material from another area. A surgeon will shape each graft according to the location it will be placed, and there are many different graft shapes that can be used.
Current Substitutes for Cartilage
Today, there is an alternative to cartilage grafting: nasal implants. Implants are made from materials such as silicone and Gore-Tex. They are used more often by some surgeons than others, but most experts do not like using synthetic implants. Implants can provide needed material, but can also have a higher rejection and complication rate than cartilage.
The Future of Grafting?
“Bioprinting” is a revolutionary process that researchers in both Zurich and New York have been working on to improve cartilage grafting procedures. It involves combining cells from donor cartilage with “biopolymers” to actually 3D print cartilage for reconstructive purposes. Using only a tiny amount of the patient’s own cells, doctors are printing useable cartilage material that is living and boasts a low rejection rate. Over time, the biopolymers used to print the cartilage are broken down by the body, leaving living cartilage in the graft site that is identical to the original material.
One of the most exciting aspects of 3D printing cartilage is the implications for reconstructive rhinoplasty. In cases of severe trauma, when the nose is greatly damaged, it is sometimes difficult to source enough material needed for rebuilding the face. With 3D printing, only a tiny amount of tissue is needed to recreate as much of the nose as is needed for reconstruction.
Should You Wait?
While the prospect of printing cartilage is exciting, these types of major technological advancements can take a long time to become commonplace. This is especially true for cosmetic procedures, as printing of cartilage will mostly be used for therapeutic and reconstructive purposes initially. With this in mind, if you are considering rhinoplasty, it is probably a good idea to just go ahead with your plans for nasal surgery with the current techniques. Cartilage grafting today is highly successful when performed by an expert surgeon, and you will want to be able to enjoy your results for as long as possible.
Finding an Expert
A talented plastic surgeon can create amazing results using techniques that have been used for hundreds of years, but dedicated rhinoplasty surgeons also keep an eye on the future of nasal surgery. If you are thinking of moving forward with surgery, then you should speak to an experienced, board certified facial plastic surgeon who understands the importance of continued training and knowledge of the latest technology and techniques.
Dr. Stuart Bentkover has been honing his craft for over 25 years, and focuses his skills on the art of rhinoplasty and facelift surgery, his two specialties. Dr. Bentkover’s artistic eye and skilled hand have helped him create consistently good results for a diverse patient base. If you would like to speak to Dr. Bentkover about your procedure, call Bentkover Facial Plastic Surgery in Worcester (508-363-6500) or Stoneham (617-247-0033), MA to schedule your consultation.