Background: Harvesting of rib as a source of cartilage can result in significant donor-site morbidity. In experienced hands, excellent results from using autologous rib cartilage are achievable for ear reconstruction, rhinoplasty, and otolaryngology. The authors report the morbidity associated with the harvest of costal cartilage in 42 patients who underwent ear reconstruction.
Methods: The notes were examined retrospectively and further data were collected with a questionnaire. Patients noted their experience of pain, clicking, and satisfaction with the donor site. Fifteen patients underwent additional clinical assessments of their donor scar and contour deformity using a standardized scale. Five donor sites were reconstructed with spare cartilage left over from carving the ear framework.
Results: The results showed that pain and clicking of the chest wall represented the commonest complaints. These peaked in the first week after surgery and diminished slowly over 3 months. The donor-site scar and deformity were acceptable to most patients. There was an improvement in the contour deformity of the chest wall harvest site in the five patients who underwent reconstruction of their donor site.
Conclusions: To improve the outcome for patients undergoing cartilage harvest, efforts must be made to further reduce pain and donor-site morbidity. Reconstruction of the donor site with spare cartilage should be attempted where possible to improve the contour defect of the donor site. Refinements in the methods of cartilage harvest or donor-site reconstruction may achieve this in the future.