Objectives Costal cartilage is becoming increasingly popular as a graft source for facial reconstruction. However, carving methods have not changed in decades and continue to primarily rely on detailed maneuvers with a scalpel. There are few reports of mechanical devices for shaping costal cartilage, and to our knowledge their accuracy and precision have not been reported. We describe a simple costal cartilage slicing device that facilitates the production of sections having uniform, user-defined thicknesses.
Methods The design included laboratory research using 200 porcine and 2 cadaveric human ex vivo costal cartilage slices. A 2-component apparatus was constructed consisting of a mechanism to secure the costal cartilage and a double-bladed device to cut the rib graft through a central cross-section. Optimizing blade characteristics and static forces that secure the cartilage were critical design challenges. The device was used to obtain slices 0.8, 2.1, and 4.1 mm in thickness, with lengths up to 4.0 cm and a width of 1.0 cm. To confirm uniformity, thickness was measured at 8 fixed regions per section using a digital micrometer.
Results All costal cartilage slices appeared to be extremely uniform on visual and manual inspection. The absolute difference between the largest and smallest thickness measured for each individual sample ranged from 0.04 to 0.13 mm, 0.06 to 0.14 mm, and 0.10 to 0.21 mm for the 0.8-, 2.1-, and 4.1-mm-thick groups, respectively.
Conclusions Our study demonstrates the precision of using a mechanical slicing device to section costal cartilage to a clinically relevant and uniform thickness. This mechanized technology may increase accuracy and reduce carving time required for using costal cartilage tissue in head and neck reconstruction.