• cartilage;
  • rabbit;
  • reshaping;
  • laser;
  • nasal septum;
  • plastic surgery;
  • septoplasty


Background and Objectives

The process of altering the shape of cartilage using heat has been referred to as thermoforming, and presents certain clinical benefits in reconstructive surgical procedures within the head and neck. Thermoforming allows cartilage in the upper airway and face to be reshaped without the use of classic surgical maneuvers such as carving, morselizing, or suturing. The goal of this study was to determine the dependence of cartilage shape change on both temperature and laser dosimetry using two thermoforming methods: saline bath immersion and laser irradiation.

Study Design/Materials and Methods

Ex-vivo rabbit and porcine nasal septal cartilages were mechanically deformed and reshaped using the two thermoforming methods. With saline bath immersion using rabbit cartilage, each specimen was deformed by securing it to a small copper tube (outer diameter 8 mm) using dental bands. For porcine cartilage immersed in a saline bath, each sample was mechanically deformed between two pieces of wire mesh attached to a semicircular acrylic block. With both porcine and rabbit cartilage, the specimen and apparatus were then immersed in a hot saline bath for time intervals varying from 20 and 320 seconds and at constant temperatures between 62 and 74°C. In laser reshaping, the cartilage specimens were mechanically deformed on a jig and consecutively irradiated with an Nd:YAG laser (λ = 1.32 µm) in several spots for 6–16 seconds and irradiances of 10.2–40.7 W/cm2 per spot. After either saline bath heating or irradiation, cartilage specimens were immersed in room temperature saline for 15 minutes, then upon removal from the jig the length between the ends of each specimen was measured in order to calculate the resulting bend angle.


The transition zone for cartilage reshaping was defined as where a significant increase in bend angle was observed between consecutive times of immersion/irradiation at the same temperature/irradiance. For the saline bath experiments, the transition zone was observed between 59–68°C and 62–68°C for porcine and rabbit cartilage, respectively. Similar transition zones occurred with laser irradiation below irradiances of 20.4 W/cm2 for both porcine and rabbit cartilage. In addition, the dosimetry pairs in the transition zones produce peak temperatures below the thresholds determined from the saline bath immersion studies.


The critical transition temperature region was determined by the sharp increase in bend angle at consecutive times of immersion at the same temperature. This range was determined to be 59–68°C and 62–68°C for porcine and rabbit cartilage, respectively. Similar transition zones for dosimetry occurred below 20.4 W/cm2 during cartilage irradiation in both species. © 2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.