What Percentage of Rhinoplasties Need Cartilage Grafts from Ear or Rib?

Doctor Answers 17

Ear and rib cartilage grafts usually are less than 10% of primary rhinoplasties

Ear and rib cartilage grafts usually are less than 10% of primary rhinoplasties.  Usually there is enought cartilage from the nasal septum to use for rhinoplasties.  This also depends on what kind of practice the surgeon has.  If they have a good reputation and alot of experience, Secondary rhinoplasties or rhinoplasties that are the second time around are more common. 

In this situation cartilage grafts from the ear and rib are more common and it varies for all surgeons.  It also depends on the ethnicities of the person.  Caucasians usually have more prominence of the nose and usually request making the nose smaller.  This requires taking cartilage out and in this instance the less cartilage is needed. 

For other races, cartilage is usually more of a shortage and thus requires more grafts and in this case either foreign implants, or grafts from the rib or ear are taken.  Since taking rib is such an undertaking, patients usually opt for implants such as silicone, med por, and goretex are used.   Ear cartilage can be used but given its pliabilty and curvature it is less than optimal for many grafting needs and are more used for tip grafts and grafts for the cartilage that make up the tips.

Bellevue Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.2 out of 5 stars 84 reviews

Souce for cartilage grafts in rhinoplasty depend on both need and surgeon's choice

Each individual surgeon has a continuum of choices for cartilage graft sources depending on how much cartilage is necessary, what is available and what works best in their hands. Personally, my first choice is nasal septum, then ear cartilage and rib cartilage last. Sometimes the septal cartilage has been used or altered by prior Septoplasty. Also, ear cartilage is softer and not useful for all kinds of grafts. If a lot of cartilage is needed, rib may be the first choice. So, if you are seeking revision Rhinoplasty, see a few revision specialists and then decide who you feel best understands what your needs are.

Steven J. Pearlman, MD
New York Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 125 reviews

Grafting of cartilage to the nose

Ear and Rib cartilage are used in varying percentages depending on the problem.  In primary rhinoplasty, ear and rib are less common unless there is some reason why the septum is not a good donor site for the cartialge required.  In secondary rhinoplasty, the percentage of ear and rib goes up, probably on the order of 15 to 50 % depending on the problem and previous surgery.  Many times in secondary rhinoplasty, the septum has not been touched so this becomes a good donor site.  

Jay Calvert, MD, FACS
Beverly Hills Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 50 reviews

Grafts from other sites for primary rhinoplasty

Whether grafts are needed from sources other than the nose depends on how much support or augmentation is needed and how much septal cartilage is available.  With asian rhinoplasty need for ear or rib grafts approaches 50%.  In this example there was need for major tip support and the septal cartilage was inadequate.

Sam Naficy, MD, FACS
Seattle Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.7 out of 5 stars 221 reviews

Use of rib or ear cartilage for rhinoplasty

I have never had to use rib or ear cartilage for a primary rhinoplasty with a patient who has had no trauma or cocaine use. The cartilage from the septum is adequate.

These cartilages are used more often for secondary or multiple previous surgeries.

Michael A. Jazayeri, MD
Santa Ana Plastic Surgeon
4.7 out of 5 stars 13 reviews

Small percentage of rhinoplasties need cartilage grafts from ear or rib



Very few primary rhinoplasties need ear cartilage grafts or rib cartilage grafts.  Ear and rib cartilage is only used after the nose and septum have been depleted of excess cartilage.  Patients who undergo revision rhinoplasties have a higher chance of needing cartilage grafts from the ear or rib.

William Portuese, MD
Seattle Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 143 reviews

Each grafting source provides unique advantages

In my practice, I use septal cartilage in about 90% of the time, ear cartilage about 30% of the time and rib cartilage about 30% of the time. The decision of which source to use (and sometimes I will need to take from more than one site) depends on a few things:

1. How much overall material I will need. As a surgeon who uses a structural philosophy, I tend to need more material in order to keep the nose strong while aesthetically balanced. Rib provides the most material, but does involve more time and recovery. Septal cartilage is usually the best first choice, unless a large augmentation is needed (for example to raise the bridge a lot).

2. The type of material needed. For example, ear cartilage is curved and springy. This does not work well when you need strong or straight cartilage grafts. But this type of cartilage is ideally suited to provide curved support for certain areas of the nose like the outer wall.

3. The availability of cartilage in any given site. This is important especially during revision rhinoplasty. When previous surgery has been performed, there may not be graft material available in the septum or even the ear.

David W. Kim, MD
Bay Area Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 37 reviews

Percentage of grafts for rhinoplasty

I can not give you a definite number or percentage of how many rhinoplasty patients need ear or rib cartilage. If grafts are needed they are usually obtained from the septum. If they are secondary procedures, they may need to be taken from the rib or ear.

Steven Wallach, MD
New York Plastic Surgeon
4.1 out of 5 stars 28 reviews

Percentage of Rhinoplasties with Cartilage Grafts

I'm not aware of any national statistics on the percentage of patients who need cartilage grafts with rhinoplasty surgery. In our practice, it is very high because 60% of our rhinoplasty patients are having revisions of surgery done before we've seen them. Some ethnic groups, such as Asians, need cartilage augmentation with their primary surgery. It is fair to say that cartilage grafting is very common.

Richard W. Fleming, MD
Beverly Hills Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 38 reviews

Cartilage Grafts

It is hard to give you a percentage. Most rhinoplasty patients can have cartilage used from their nasal septum unless they have had a previous septoplasty. If a patient has had a septoplasty then the next logical place to obtain cartilage if needed would be from the ears. In my opinion I reserve the use of rib cartilage for major reconstructive rhinoplasty.

Dr. ES

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.