Objective: Rhinoplasty frequently includes harvesting of nasal septal cartilage. The objective of this prospective basic investigation is to determine whether cartilage can regenerate after submucosal resection (SMR) of the nasal septum in the rabbit. Neocartilage formation has not heretofore been described in this model.
Methods: By lateral rhinotomy, SMR was performed on 17 rabbits followed by reapproximation of the perichondrium. After 7 months, septi were fixed, sectioned, and examined histologically. Findings were photographed and data tabulated according to location and extent.
Results: Sites of matrix-secreting isogenous chondrocyte islands were identified between the perichondrial flaps of every animal, principally in the anterior inferior septum. The width of the islands averaged 190 μm, and the mean neocartilage height was found to be 840 μm. The newly formed cartilage consisted of chondrocytes within chondrons and was comparable in shape and structure to native septal cartilage.
Conclusions: After SMR, rabbit cartilage tissue can regenerate and form matrix within the potential space created by surgery. The surrounding stem cell-rich perichondrium may be the site of origin for these chondrocytes. These findings suggest that after SMR of the human nasal septum, it may be possible for new cartilage tissue to develop provided the mucosa is well approximated. This biologic effect may be enhanced by insertion of cytokine-rich tissue scaffolds that exploit the native ability of septal perichondrium to regenerate and repair cartilage tissue.