Nose and Lip Graft Variants: A Subunit Anatomical Study

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In the field of vascularized composite tissue allotransplantation, the surgical design of facial subunit grafts is an evolving concept. The purpose of the present article is to study the possibility of dividing the historical nose and lip face transplant into several morphologic and functional subunit grafts, depending on their respective supply.


This study was conducted in 20 adult cadavers. The facial artery and its branches were dissected bilaterally in 16 fresh and four embalmed heads. Nasolabial perfusion was assessed by selective injection of methylene blue and eosin (n = 2) or India ink (n = 2) in the superior labial and distal facial arteries. Dynamic perfusion through the distal facial artery was illustrated by fluoroscopy (n = 3). Three nose–upper lip grafts were harvested and injected with barium sulfate for microangiography computed tomographic analysis. Finally, three isolated nasal and bilabial grafts were procured and their vascular patency assessed by fluoroscopy.


The distal facial artery can perfuse the entire nose, septum, and upper lip, without any contribution of the superior labial artery. A dense anastomotic network indeed exists between the respective distal rami of both vessels. Furthermore, the exclusion of the superior labial artery from the harvested nasal subunit allowed safe bilabial subunit procurement, from the same specimen.


The authors’ results demonstrate the feasibility of harvesting nasal and labial subunits, in an isolated or a combined manner. These results can find applications in subunit autologous replantation, allotransplantation, allogenic face partial retransplantation, and the emerging field of vascularized composite tissue engineering.

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