Can You Live Without All of Your Costal Margin? What Would Happen if a Small Portion Was Removed? (photo)

It is known that small amounts of cartilage from different areas of the ribcage are harvested to help reconstruct ears and noses. However I can never find any information on what happens after the harvest to the ribs. With chunks missing from the ribcage does life change at all? Is it noticeable on the outside? With chunks removed, specifically on the margin that connects the false ribs to the sternum, is it too dangerous overall to live with less protection in those areas?

Doctor Answers 5

Can You Live Without All of Your Costal Margin? What Would Happen if a Small Portion Was Removed?

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       These are small pieces of cartilage, which cause no functional compromise to the breathing apparatus or structural integrity of the chest wall.  Find a plastic surgeon with ELITE credentials who performs hundreds of rhinoplasties and rhinoplasty revisions each year.  Then look at the plastic surgeon's website before and after photo galleries to get a sense of who can deliver the results.

Kenneth Hughes, MD Los Angeles, CA

Rib graft and rhinoplasty

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As a craniofacial surgeon I know your question is a good one and one we fail to answer far too often.

The rib that is taken will have no functional effect on the chest wall, and have no effect on breathing. The location of the rib that is chosen will depend on the surgeon, as will the amount of rib taken. Rest assured that it is not the entire rib, usually a portion is needed that most often will contain a part of bone and a part of cartilage.

If the rib is the bottom rib it may be possible to feel the slightest difference between left and right where the graft was harvested but it is subtle at best

In short the graft will  be invaluable in the reconstruction and not missed from a functional or aesthetic point of view from the donor site.

I hope that addresses some of your concerns.

Jeremy Hunt  

Harvesting rib cartilage for a rhinoplasty is unusual.

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Ribs make a nice donor area when substantial amounts of cartilage are required. This is most unusual for a rhinoplasty. The septum in the year or more commonly used. Harvesting of rib cartilages is painful but creates no functional problem when healing is concluded. There will be a scar on the rib cage.

Medical Consequences of Rib Graft Removal

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From a functional breathing standpoint, the loss of the cartilaginous portions of the ribs below #6 is of no consequence. So whatever size grafts are used for ears and noses has no quality of life issues. If the entire ribs of 6,7 and 8 are taken there is an inward indentation of the lower rib cage that would be noticeable if it was done only on one side. Rib removal of 7,8 and 9 is known as ribcage/waistline narrowing if done on both sides.

Long-term effect of rib cartilage harvest

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The piece of cartilage that is removed has very little effect on your body besides leaving a small linear scar.  From the outside, the scar is the only visible change.  When the perichondrium of the rib is left intact and reapproximated after cartilage harvest, there is some regrowth of cartilage.  

Donald B. Yoo, MD
Beverly Hills Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 64 reviews

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