Background: Cartilage grafts are frequently used in nasal surgery for structural and/or aesthetic purposes. The literature holds contradictory reports concerning the effect of crushing on the viability of cartilage grafts.
Methods: Nasal septal and costal cartilage grafts were harvested from 12 New Zealand rabbits. Each nasal septal and costal cartilage was divided into five equal pieces. One of the pieces was left intact and the remaining four were prepared as slightly, moderately, severely, or significantly crushed. The cartilage pieces were then autoimplanted into the paravertebral skin of the rabbits. The animals were euthanized 4 months later and the effect of crushing on cartilage grafts was assessed pathologically.
Results: The viability of the chondrocytes was found to be decreased as the level of crushing increased. The mean chondrocyte viability rates for the intact, slightly crushed, moderately crushed, severely crushed, and significantly crushed cartilages were 88, 75, 51, 41, and 13 percent for the septal cartilages and 94, 83, 62, 32, and 26 percent for the costal cartilages, respectively. The differences between the mean viability rates of septal and costal cartilage groups were statistically not significant.
Conclusions: The level of crushing determines the rate of viability for the crushed cartilage. Viability rates and the clinical properties of the slightly crushed cartilage grafts at long-term follow-up may be similar to those of the intact cartilage grafts. However, severe or significant crushing leads to a decrement in the viability of the chondrocytes and may cause unpredictable degrees of volume loss at long-term follow-up.