Growth Potential of Autogenous Cartilage Grafts in Expanded Skin: An Experimental Study in Rabbits

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The effect of tissue expansion on the growth potential of autogenous cartilage grafts was studied in 10-day-old New Zealand white rabbits. The rabbits were divided into two groups: In Group 1 (n = 12) after 2 weeks of tissue expansion by using a 10-ml tissue expander, a cranially based 4 × 4-cm dorsal skin flap was raised and a 1 × 1-cm autogenous cartilage graft from the midportion of the left ear was transplanted beneath the flap in each rabbit. In Group 2 (n = 12) elevation of dorsal skin flaps and transplantation of the grafts were performed in the same way but without a previous tissue expansion. The grafts were removed at 30 and 60 days after transplantation in both groups, for histological examination and measurement of the dimensional changes to determine the growth rate. In both groups, histological examination revealed characteristic findings for cartilage growth, however, Group 1 (expansion) demonstrated a statistically significant increase in the growth of cartilage grafts when compared with Group 2 (control) (p = 0.0001). The results of this study indicate, from the standpoint of acceptance and growth potential of autogenous cartilage framework, that there is no drawback to using this tissue expansion technique for reconstruction of the ear in childhood.

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