Objective To report the first successful study to date of in vivo electromechanical reshaping of ear cartilage in a rabbit model.
Methods Ears of New Zealand white rabbits were reshaped using percutaneous needle electrode electromechanical reshaping (5 V for 4 minutes) and were then bolstered for 4 weeks. Ten ears were treated, with 2 undergoing sham procedures and serving as controls. The treatment was performed using a platinum array of electrodes consisting of 4 parallel rows of needles inserted across the region of flexures in the ear. After 4 weeks, the animals were killed, and the ears were photographed and sectioned for conventional light microscopy and confocal microscopy (live-dead fluorescent assays).
Results Significant shape change was noted in all the treated ears (mean, 102.4°; range, 87°-122°). Control ears showed minimal shape retention (mean, 14.5°; range, 4°-25°). Epidermis and adnexal structures were preserved in reshaped ears, and neochondrogenesis was noted in all the specimens. Confocal microscopy demonstrated a localized zone of nonviable chondrocytes (<2.0 mm in diameter) surrounding needle sites in all the treated ears.
Conclusions Electromechanical reshaping can alter the shape of the rabbit auricle, providing good creation and retention of shape, with limited skin and cartilage injury. Needle electrode electromechanical reshaping is a viable technique for minimally invasive tissue reshaping, with potential applications in otoplasty, septoplasty, and rhinoplasty. Further studies to refine dosimetry parameters will be required before clinical trials.