Nasal Reconstruction Following Tumor Removal

Updated: Dec 16, 2020
  • Author: Andrew M Coughlin, MD; Chief Editor: Dirk M Elston, MD  more...
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Introduction to Nasal Reconstruction

The nose occupies a prominent place in the center of the face, making it a structure of obvious aesthetic significance. The delicate reconstruction of this facial structure following tumor removal procedures cannot be overemphasized. With thoughtful attention to surgical planning and use of proper surgical technique, the dermatologic surgeon can restore both the form and the function of the nose. [1]

The goal of this article is to provide an understanding of the relative indications for several reconstructive options. Detailed discussions of proper surgical techniques are beyond the scope of this work.

Indications for Nasal Reconstruction

The surgeon should assess the need for a reconstructive procedure after adequate tumor removal. Reconstructive procedures are typically offered when the wound is deemed unsuitable for secondary intention healing.

Even on a delicate nose, secondary intention healing can result in aesthetically acceptable results when the wound is small and shallow. Areas of the nose that heal well by secondary intention include the concavity of the nasal root in the area of the medial canthus and the concavity of the alar groove. Secondary healing typically produces acceptable results when the wound is less than 1 cm in diameter, less than 4-5 mm in depth, and greater than 5-6 mm in distance from the mobile alar margin. A reconstructive procedure should be considered if these wound criteria are not satisfied.

Reconstructive procedures have the opportunity to increase the speed of healing, to prevent disastrous wound contraction that produces functionally significant deformity, and to produce aesthetically optimal results.

Contraindications to Nasal Reconstruction

Nasal reconstruction methods have few contraindications. If the patient tolerates tumor extirpation well, a nasal reconstructive procedure will likely be tolerated. Care should be exercised when previous surgical procedures or radiation therapy have altered the nose, because perfusion of nasal tissues then becomes highly unpredictable. Care should also be exercised in patients who use tobacco heavily; however, the influence of cigarette smoking on the survival of small nasal flaps is likely limited, unless tobacco use is extreme. Other medical conditions that may have a negative impact on the success of nasal reconstruction (as with any surgical procedure) include bleeding diatheses, chronic malnutrition, underlying severe disease/general debility, and unrealistic patient expectations.

Relevant Anatomy

The anatomy of the nose is complicated because of the intricate arrangement of shadowing concavities and light-reflecting convexities. The surgeon should be aware of the topographic anatomy and the internal anatomy of the nose before proceeding with any nasal reconstructive procedure. A review of nasal topography should be undertaken, and the surgeon should be acquainted with the concept of facial aesthetic units. The nose is made up of nine subunits; three are paired, and three are unpaired. The paired subunits include the two nasal ala, two soft tissue triangles, and two nasal sidewalls. The three unpaired subunits include the columella, tip, and dorsum. 

The internal anatomy of the nose is also relevant to surgical success. Nasal musculature is not terribly important for functional purposes; however, this musculature can dilate the nares in times of extreme inspiratory need, and it can serve a purpose in defining the nasal valve mechanism. More importantly perhaps, the nasal musculature provides a luxurious source of perfusion for random pattern cutaneous flaps.

Fortunately, the arterial supply of nasal skin is redundant. The nose has an arterial supply from both the external carotid system (facial/angular artery) and the internal carotid system (ophthalmic artery branches in the area of the medial canthus). The underlying cartilaginous framework of the nose should also be reviewed before initiating any reconstructive procedure. This review has particular importance in the area of the middle/lateral nasal alae, as cartilaginous bolsters do not support potentially mobile alar margins. The lateral nasal alae can frequently be deformed during surgical reconstructive procedures that place even modest wound-closure tensions in directions that are not exactly parallel to the alar margins.



Anesthesia for Nasal Reconstruction

Most of the procedures described in this article can be safely performed with the patient under simple local anesthesia. Although it has been taught for decades in medical schools that lidocaine with epinephrine cannot be used on the nose or ears, it is absolutely safe and provides excellent analgesia. Fifteen minutes before the initiation of the surgical repair, the local anesthetic is infiltrated into the soft tissues of the nose. Occasionally, appropriate nerve blocks can also be used for more complete and longer lasting anesthesia. 

Complication Prevention

To prevent infections resulting from flap or graft repair of the nose, some authors routinely use empiric antibiotics designed to cover staphylococcal organisms. In our hands, this is not absolutely required, and we generally use antibiotics only when a nonvascularized skin or cartilage graft is employed. 

Techniques to minimize the risk (which should be 5% or less) of partial or total flap loss include proper flap design, wide undermining to minimize wound-closure tension, meticulous hemostasis, delicate handling of tissue, and strict preservation of a highly vascular muscular flap base.

Surgical attention should be directed toward the delicate handling of tissue and the proper eversion of buried sutures. Incision lines on the nasal tip and alae are more visible than incision lines placed elsewhere on less sebaceous skin. This is behind the theory that placing suture lines on nasal subunit lines is beneficial for hiding scars. 

All tissue rearrangements should be carefully sized in both horizontal and vertical dimensions because a large flap stuffed into a small hole has a high likelihood of developing a trapdoor deformity postoperatively. Wide undermining of the flap's recipient site has also been recommended as a means of preventing a trapdoor deformity.

Hemostatic Studies

If the patient's history or examination findings indicate a bleeding tendency, determinations of an intact hemostatic system can be obtained with a platelet count, bleeding time, and prothrombin time/activated partial thromboplastin time (PT/aPTT). Other laboratory investigations serve little purpose.

Adequate Tumor Removal

Before considering nasal reconstruction, the first step in any surgical procedure for skin cancer occurring on the nose is to ensure adequate tumor removal. The Mohs micrographic surgical technique has been documented to have unparalleled success in the treatment of nonmelanoma skin cancer of the nose. [2] Alternatively, surgical resection with frozen section margin control has essentially the same success rates and frequently allows the ablative and reconstructive surgeon to do the entire procedure at one time.

On the nose, subclinical tumor extension is often dramatic, and this extension can lead to very large defects requiring extensive reconstruction. It is of the utmost importance for patients to understand this prior to resection so that they are not surprised by larger than expected defects. This is especially true with infiltrative basal cell carcinomas. Again, both Mohs and traditional surgical resection with frozen margins provide similar results. However, the length of the operation can be significantly longer for those patients undergoing multiple Mohs stages (see the images below).

An apparently small recurrent basal cell carcinoma An apparently small recurrent basal cell carcinoma on the lateral ala (same patient as in following photo).
Extensive subclinical tumor extension is identifie Extensive subclinical tumor extension is identified following excision by using the Mohs micrographic surgical technique (same patient as in previous image).


Wound Assessment

Before beginning any reconstructive procedure, the physician should adequately assess the surgical wound that has resulted from tumor extirpation. Particular attention should be directed toward determining the breadth, depth, and anatomic location of the wound, because these factors have a dramatic influence on the selection of the most appropriate reconstructive technique. The quantity and quality of tissue surrounding the wound should also be noted. If the defect will require extensive reconstruction, such as is necessary with a total rhinectomy defect, preparations should be made. 

Importantly, the surgeon should attempt to locate areas of adjacent tissue that share similar characteristics of skin color, sebaceous density, texture, and porosity with nasal skin. The presence of old surgical scars and radiation therapy stigmata should be identified on the nose, because these factors may predict inadequate cutaneous perfusion of adjacent tissue. A careful, prospective examination of the nose must also determine any functional deficiencies before the initiation of a reconstructive procedure. Failure to correct functional problems before covering the nasal wound with a flap or a graft may produce problems that are difficult to surgically correct later.

The surgeon should evaluate the symmetry of the alar margins before beginning any reconstructive procedure. Although some minor degree of alar asymmetry is common, the patient may not have recognized this before the surgical procedure. With the increased visual attention placed on the nose during the postoperative period, the patient may inappropriately blame the surgeon for slight degrees of asymmetry.



Overview of technique

Following the determination of adequate tumor excision, the surgeon can begin to contemplate a nasal reconstructive procedure. A thorough understanding of nasal anatomy is a prerequisite before initiating any surgical procedure (see Relevant Anatomy).

Initially, the surgeon should determine the nature and magnitude of the tissue that was surgically removed. Careful assessments regarding the degree of skin, soft tissue, cartilage, and mucosal loss should be undertaken. Particular attention should be directed toward assessing the patency of the nasal airway. Excision of the tumor from the nasal ala may create functional compromise of the nasal airway. If a flap or a graft is simply placed over the wound without previously securing a patent airway with an architectural bolster of cartilage, permanent and difficult-to-correct airway problems may arise. [3]

The surgeon should also consider the concept of nasal aesthetic subunits when assessing the degree of skin and soft-tissue loss. If the final aesthetic result can be improved, the surgeon should occasionally consider extending the existing surgical defect to the margins of the adjacent nasal aesthetic subunits. The general rule of resecting the remainder of the nasal subunit if greater than 50% of the subunit is removed should be followed. This is known to provide the best cosmetic result for hiding incisions on the nose.

Most importantly the physician/surgeon needs to follow the motto of "do no harm". If the required wound repair is beyond the abilities of the physician who excised the tumor, help from more qualified colleagues should be considered. Poor surgical reconstructions produce aesthetic and functional problems that can be difficult to correct after the fact. .

In selecting a nasal reconstructive procedure, the surgeon understandably should select the surgical procedure that has the lowest morbidity while offering the highest likelihood of functional and aesthetic success. Small wounds may heal adequately with secondary intention healing. Other reconstructive options for the nose include linear closures, split-thickness skin grafts, full-thickness skin grafts, random pattern cutaneous flaps, and axial pattern cutaneous flaps. For total rhinectomy defects, the surgeon should consider utilizing a prosthesis rather than flap reconstruction.

All of the approaches have predictable advantages and disadvantages. The goal of this article is to provide an understanding of the relative indications for several reconstructive options. Detailed discussions of proper surgical techniques are beyond the scope of this work.

Linear repair

Small wounds on the nose can often be repaired in a simple linear (side-to-side) manner, which is often advantageous. The complexity of the operative procedure is low; therefore, the patient's morbidity is diminished. Linear closure produces a predictably simple scar that is often aesthetically ideal. [4] Unfortunately, many areas of the nose are not suitable for linear repairs because of the lack of mobile tissue, particularly in areas of the nasal tip and ala. Therefore, linear repairs are often limited to areas of the lateral nasal sidewalls and the central nasal dorsum.

Tissue redundancies (dog ears) on the nose are permanent and visually distracting; therefore, their creation should carefully be avoided. In the area of the upper lateral nasal sidewall, linear closures should be oriented to point toward the medial canthus, following the relaxed skin tension lines in that area.

Nasal soft-tissue wounds on the central dorsum, the nasal supratip, and the nasal tip can also be considered for linear repair when they are small (ie, < 1 cm in diameter). A surgical ellipse created around these circular wounds should extend to a length-to-width ratio of at least 2-3:1, eliminating the potential for a distracting dog-ear deformity (see the following image). The distal part of the nose does not have any identifiable relaxed skin tension lines; therefore, closures in this area should be oriented vertically to prevent alar asymmetry. As with all linear closures on the nose, the tissue should be undermined at the level of the perichondrium. The wound is approximated by using buried vertical mattress sutures following meticulous hemostasis. Particular attention is paid to wound-edge eversion on the sebaceous areas of the nose, because surgical scars tend to invert in thickly skinned areas.

A central nasal defect of approximately 1 cm. Note A central nasal defect of approximately 1 cm. Note that the location of the wound is in the nasal midline (same patient as in following images).

Although the linear closure on the nasal tip can be satisfying (see the images below), it unfortunately is only available for small wounds (< 1 cm). Larger linear closures on the nasal tip produce unacceptably high wound-closure tension, which promotes wound-edge ischemia and more visible scarring in the nasal tip area. [5, 6] Such higher wound-closure tensions also produce an artificially flared appearance to the nasal ala.

Linear closure on the nose 8 weeks postoperatively Linear closure on the nose 8 weeks postoperatively. Note the acceptable cicatrix and the minimal alar elevation.

An interesting variant of the linear closure for wounds located off-center in the area of the supratip is the Burow-type advancement flap, which can serve to close smaller wounds while maintaining alar symmetry (see the following images).

A Burow flap has been used to place the inferior d A Burow flap has been used to place the inferior dog-ear excision exactly in the nasal midline.

Split-thickness skin graft

Split-thickness skin grafting can occasionally be considered in the repair of nasal wounds, such as in coverage of large wounds on the nose; however, the aesthetic success of the grafts is often compromised by the propensity of the graft to significantly contract and to develop unsightly hyperpigmentation. More aesthetically appropriate alternatives are almost always available. Because the graft offers little hope for aesthetic success, split-thickness skin grafts should be considered to provide only biologic/functional coverage of the nasal wound. Therefore, split-thickness skin grafting plays virtually no role in nasal reconstruction.  

Full-thickness skin graft

Full-thickness skin grafting is typically a better aesthetic option than split-thickness skin grafting. [7] Full-thickness skin grafts contract much less than split-thickness skin grafts, thereby minimizing the risk of aesthetically significant alar distortion. Full-thickness skin grafts typically retain a more natural color, and they can often maintain textural characteristics (eg, visible pores) that reflect the quality of donor sites. These skin grafts are an important nasal reconstructive modality, but some surgeons believe that well-designed and executed random pattern cutaneous flaps often exceed full-thickness skin grafts in the final aesthetic results. Therefore, such surgeons rely on full-thickness skin grafting as a repair technique in only 20-30% of nasal wounds encountered.

Some authors select full-thickness skin grafting as a reconstructive modality when secondary intention healing, linear repairs, and uncomplicated flap repairs are not suitable. Typically, full-thickness skin grafting is selected for large wounds of the nose (see the images below). The author believes that full-thickness skin grafting has an important role in the reconstruction of the nasal tip and the ala, because flaps moved into these areas can cause tremendous nasal distortion if not carefully designed and executed. Full-thickness skin grafts are most appropriate in reconstructing shallow nasal wounds. Because full-thickness skin grafts need to be thinned before grafting, the grafts should be relied on to provide only minimal soft-tissue replenishment.

Complex skin and soft tissue defect on the nasal d Complex skin and soft tissue defect on the nasal dorsum and sidewalls (same patient as in following images).
The early result (8 wk) of the repair is acceptabl The early result (8 wk) of the repair is acceptable. The slight amount of hyperpigmentation of the skin graft will likely resolve without further surgical intervention.

The most important predictor of graft success is the quality of the recipient bed. Therefore, the use of electrocautery is minimized carefully during the tumor removal procedure to adequately preserve the perfusion of the recipient site. The recipient site should be shallow, and the presence of a perichondrium is typically required in areas of the nasal tip to promote graft viability. A number of donor sites are easily accessible to the surgeon. Some authors favor a conchal bowl donor site for the reconstruction of small to medium-sized nasal defects. The skin in the conchal bowl tends to be thicker, and the presence of visible pores makes it more closely resemble the nasal tip skin. In addition, studies have suggested that the adnexal/sebaceous gland density of the conchal bowl skin most closely approximates that of the nasal tip tissue; therefore, conchal skin grafts should be expected to be more aesthetically appropriate than grafts from other donor sites. [8] . Alternatively, full-thickness skin grafts from the neck; the preauricular, postauricular, or supraclavicular area; or the posterior arm are all adequate sites and over time provide excellent cosmetic results. The location required is often dictated by the size of the defect and, thus, the skin graft required to fill it. 

Although full-thickness skin grafts are visually most appropriate when used in the nasal sidewall areas, some surgeons find that the sidewall areas are often more easily reconstructed with other surgical techniques. Therefore, these authors largely limit the use of skin grafts to areas of the nasal tip and the alae. The most important aspect of using a full-thickness skin graft is adequately thinning it after harvest. After a graft has been harvested and thinned appropriately, the skin graft is attached to the recipient site by using nonabsorbable or absorbable sutures. The suturing technique is performed such that the skin graft is adequately anchored to the recipient bed, producing a visible concavity of the graft at the conclusion of the procedure. Bolsters with nonadhesive dressings and peripheral tie-down sutures are very helpful to hold the skin graft in place and act as a dressing for 7-10 days postoperatively. These can also be placed between the internal and external portions of the nose to maintain patency of the nasal airway during the healing and remodeling period. If nonabsorbable sutures are used, they should be removed within 1 week.

In a retrospective study of 181 patients who underwent full-thickness skin grafting for partial-thickness alar defects, Tan et al reported good to excellent cosmetic outcomes in all patients and a low incidence of postoperative complications. [9]

In a study of 21 patients, Lindsay and Morton described alar reconstruction following removal of a small basal cell carcinoma, employing a combination of a full-thickness skin graft and a subcutaneous transposition flap harvested from adjacent cheek fat. The authors reported decreased asymmetry and pincushioning compared with local flaps that can occur in this area. [10]

Burow graft

A Burow skin graft is a technique in which the most superior portion of the nasal wound is closed in a linear manner, and the dog-ear redundancy is donated to the nasal tip wound as a full-thickness skin graft (see the images below). Predictably, the Burow repair has advantages and disadvantages similar to both linear closures and full-thickness skin grafts on the nose. Of particular value is the ability of the Burow graft to diminish the size of the skin graft on the nasal tip. Some surgeons believe that this dramatically minimizes the cosmetic visibility of the grafts. Unfortunately, it also cosmetically shrinks the size and appearance of the nasal tip, which may be beneficial in some patients, while being functionally and cosmetically devastating in others. When designing a Burow graft repair of the nose, the surgeon should pay particular attention to determining the degree of skin mobility over the nasal dorsum. To prevent the production of distracting alar asymmetry, the vertical component of the repair should be oriented near the midline.

A central nasal defect that extended to the perich A central nasal defect that extended to the perichondrium. The patient was not interested in pedicled flap repair (same patient as in the following images).
A Burow graft repair diminished the size of the re A Burow graft repair diminished the size of the required graft and harvested suitable tissue from the more proximal nasal dorsum.
The final aesthetic result is acceptable to the pa The final aesthetic result is acceptable to the patient. Note the only slight visibility of the graft.

A redundancy immediately superior to the existing surgical defect is excised, and the tissue is placed on sterile gauze soaked in sodium chloride solution. The nasal soft tissue is then bluntly undermined at the level of the perichondrium and the periosteum. The superior part of the wound is closed in a layered fashion. Some surgeons carry the layered closure distally toward the nasal tip, until the lateral aspects of the nasal alae begin to lift. At that time, the excised redundancy is donated to the remaining wound as a full-thickness skin graft (see the second image above).

The skin graft appears to do particularly well, because the skin from the superior aspect of the nasal dorsum is similar in color, quality, and texture to the missing nasal tip skin (see the last image above). Despite vigorous undermining around the graft recipient site, graft loss is typically not a problem with this reconstructive modality. Burow grafts offer reconstructive success in patients who are intolerant to more involved pedicled flap repairs.

Random and axial pattern cutaneous flaps

Random and axial pattern cutaneous flaps are particularly important in nasal reconstruction. Cutaneous flaps offer the surgeon the ability to replace missing nasal tissue with tissue of a similar color, texture, and porosity. These flaps are often 1-step procedures, and the aesthetic results typically exceed those of secondary intention healing and full-thickness skin grafting when appropriate surgical design and technique are used.

With experience, flap reconstructions of the nose are predictable; however, the procedure has several disadvantages. Because significant undermining is associated with flap reconstructions on the nose, more soft tissue swelling may occur. Additionally, extra incision lines on the central part of the face are necessary to create cutaneous flaps. If the surgeon lacks a complete understanding of flap biomechanics, flap necrosis and nasal distortion can occur. Necrosis is a particularly unfortunate complication because it introduces a larger surgical defect on the nose.

Nonetheless, with proper experience, flap repairs of the nose offer significant advantages. Therefore, flaps constitute a large percentage of nasal reconstructive procedures performed by some surgeons. Although a full discussion of the various flaps relevant in nasal reconstruction is beyond the scope of this article, a few general comments are appropriate regarding the flap techniques that are more commonly used.

In selecting a flap with which to perform reconstruction, the surgeon should pay particular attention to tissue availability on the nose. The skin of the nasal tip and the ala is sebaceous, noncompliant, and thick; therefore, flaps raised within this skin can commonly cause permanent iatrogenic asymmetry of the distal part of the nose. Particularly in men with sebaceous/rhinophymatous skin, the performance of flap surgery on the distal part of the nose can be problematic.

The surgeon should also assess the architectural stability of the lateral nasal ala before any flap repair on the distal part of the nose is performed. If the lateral ala is unsupported, additional flap bulk moved into this area will likely cause alar collapse and permanent functional compromise.

Rhombic transposition flap

The primary advantage of a rhombic transposition flap is the ability to move tissue from an area in which it is more readily available to an anatomic area that lacks sufficient tissue availability. The rhombic flap also reorients wound-closure tension vectors, which can be particularly important in minimizing alar distortion. Although rhombic flaps are frequently used on the nasal tip, some surgeons tend to avoid them in this area because of their tendency to produce unattractive nasal tip and alar distortion. Most of the rhombic transposition flaps that some surgeons use on the nose are located along the lateral nasal sidewall and the glabellar areas. These flaps can donate more proximal nasal skin to distal areas that lack sufficient tissue availability.

Rhombic transposition flaps can minimize the addition of incision lines to sebaceous distal nasal skin. Although a multitude of rhombic flap designs are available to the surgeon, some authors prefers a modified Dufourmentel design (see the images below). This design allows easy closure of a circular wound while minimizing any dog-ear redundancies at the origin of the flap.

A small Mohs defect on the nasal sidewall (same pa A small Mohs defect on the nasal sidewall (same patient as in the following images).
A rhombic flap is used to donate more available pr A rhombic flap is used to donate more available proximal nasal skin into the surgical defect.
At 8 weeks, the aesthetic result from the repair i At 8 weeks, the aesthetic result from the repair is excellent.

Bilobed transposition flap

The bilobed transposition flap [11, 12, 13] is a workhorse flap for nasal reconstruction. Some authors believe the bilobed transposition flap is the reconstructive modality of choice for soft-tissue wounds located on the distal aspect of the nose. Unfortunately, the use of the flap is typically limited to nasal wounds that are less than approximately 1.5 cm in diameter. The Zitelli modification of the bilobed flap's design has further improved the usefulness of this flap. [14]

The bilobed flap offers the ability to replace missing skin on the distal aspect of the nose with skin of a similar quality obtained from more proximally located nasal areas. When designed and executed properly, the bilobed flap almost always excels in reconstructing the distal part of the nose (see the images below).

A surgical defect of approximately 1.5 cm on a seb A surgical defect of approximately 1.5 cm on a sebaceous distal part of the nose (same patient as in the following images).
The wound is reconstructed with a bilobed transpos The wound is reconstructed with a bilobed transposition flap. The distal part of the nose is not distorted because the flap is properly designed.
At 8 weeks after flap repair, the nose has healed At 8 weeks after flap repair, the nose has healed nicely without additional intervention.

The surgeon should prospectively determine the amount and the direction of tissue availability to minimize distortion of the nose. A proper flap design should then be selected. The Zitelli modification offers distinct advantages over the traditional Esser flap design touted in many plastic surgery textbooks. The flap should be appropriately sized to prevent secondary motion at the recipient sites of the flap. To minimize distortion, both the primary lobe and the secondary lobe of the flap should be equally sized to the recipient sites. When possible, the donor site of the secondary lobe should be placed perpendicular to the alar margin to prevent unanticipated alar elevation. Once the design factors have been considered appropriately, the flap should be definitively incised. The incision should be carried to the depth of the perichondrium or the periosteum.

Wide undermining is critical in properly executing the bilobed flap, because it dramatically improves the mobility of the flap, minimizes the likelihood of nasal distortion, and diminishes the likelihood of the flap undergoing pincushioning. As a result of the undermining being performed at the level of the perichondrium or the periosteum, the nasal musculature, replete with highly anastomotic blood vessels, is included in the flap's base. Hemostasis is achieved, and the flap is transposed to fill the primary and secondary surgical defects. Due to the dog-ear redundancy being prospectively removed at the edge of the primary defect, the flap is easily transposed to fill the surgical defect.

To minimize the likelihood of alar displacement, the tertiary defect is closed initially. Buried vertical mattress sutures are used, and the retracted muscle is again reapproximated to diminish the appearance of the incision lines. [15] After the tertiary defect is closed, the primary and secondary lobes of the flap are subsequently positioned. Vertical mattress buried sutures are used to align the flap, and the epidermal closure can then be performed rapidly with a running suture. Intraoperative flap modifications should be performed if alar displacement is identified. Undermining the inferior margin of the primary defects along the alar rim is among the most useful of the modifications.

A retrospective study by Knackstedt et al comparing bilobed with trilobed transposition flaps for nasal reconstruction following extirpation of tumors found that bilobed flaps were more often used to repair the inferior nasal dorsum and sidewall, while trilobed flaps were more frequently employed to reconstruct the nasal tip and infratip. Complications with both flap types were rare. [16]

Dorsal nasal rotation flap

The dorsal nasal flap offers particular advantages for reconstructing nasal surgical wounds that are greater than 1.5 cm in diameter. When properly designed and executed, the dorsal nasal flap excels in the repair of large distal nasal defects. Similar to the bilobed transposition flap, the dorsal nasal flap offers the ability to replace missing nasal tissue with tissue of a similar color and texture; however, the dorsal nasal flap is a much more involved reconstructive procedure than that of the bilobed transposition flap. Incision lines are long, and the aesthetic result can be undesirable if expert technique is not used. More importantly, dramatic distortion of the nose is likely if proper modifications of the flap are not undertaken. If modifications are not appropriately designed, the vascular input of the flap can become precarious. If the blood supply is compromised, a necrotic flap on the nose produces a greatly enlarged surgical defect.

The dorsal nasal rotation flap demonstrates many of the nuances of rotation flap reconstruction of the face. Care should be taken to elongate the arc of the rotation flap so that the secondary defect created when the flap is moved is narrow at any one point. This maneuver minimizes the likelihood of distortion of the alar margin or the medial canthus. Equally important in the design of the dorsal nasal flap is extension of the leading edge along the primary defect, which is distinct from a traditional rotation flap design. The modification minimizes the influence of pivotal restraint on the flap. The mobility of the flap is dramatically enhanced, with a significant back cut in the area of the glabella. The back cut can be extended to the area of the medial canthus, and it produces a flap that is mobile because of a narrow pedicle.

After the flap has been incised, the entire nasal surface should be undermined at the level of the periosteum or the perichondrium. Particular attention should be paid toward gently undermining the area of the medial canthus, because the vascular supply of the flap originates in this area. With the appropriate flap design and undermining, the flap can be easily rotated to fill the primary defect under minimal tension. Alar distortion is not produced, because the tension is minimized and the perfusion of the flap is ensured. The greatest disadvantage of this procedure is most commonly seen in women, when the medial heads of the eyebrows are pulled even more midline, which, depending on the size of the flap, can give the appearance of a unibrow (see the images below).

A large surgical wound on the nasal tip. The patie A large surgical wound on the nasal tip. The patient desired a 1-step surgical reconstruction (same patient as in the following images).
A dorsal nasal rotation flap was used to repair th A dorsal nasal rotation flap was used to repair this distal defect.
At 3 months, the flap has provided an aesthetic ap At 3 months, the flap has provided an aesthetic appearance that exceeds the typical appearance of a graft repair.

Nasolabial transposition flap

The nasolabial transposition flap is a 1-step transposition/advancement flap that is useful in the reconstruction of lateral alar defects. [17] The flap is advantageous, because it offers a 1-step repair of the lateral ala. Its donor site is skillfully hidden in the melolabial crease; however, the nasolabial transposition flap has several distinct disadvantages. The flap is capable of anatomic distortion if it is not widely undermined. The alar groove is necessarily blunted, and the flap is particularly prone to development of a trapdoor deformity.

Some authors select nasolabial flaps when a surgical defect is located on the lateral ala or in the area of the alar groove. The incision line of the flap is made directly into the melolabial fold. The flap undergoes predictable shortening as it transposes (illustrating pivotal restraint); therefore, the flap should be elongated at its donor site on the medial cheek. Dog ears in the area of the melolabial fold and immediately superior to the surgical defect on the nose are removed generously. This maneuver minimizes the risk of developing unsightly tissue protuberances in the postoperative period.

After the flap is incised, it is widely undermined in the area of the central part of the cheek. Hemostasis is achieved, and adequate flap mobility is ensured before suturing. The placement of deep tacking sutures is of particular importance in creating the nasolabial transposition flap. After sufficient flap mobility has been achieved with wide undermining, a deep suture is placed in the piriform aperture area in the region of the alar base. This suture serves to anchor the flap in the nasofacial sulcus area and the nasolabial fold area. Additional tacking sutures are placed from the recipient bed along the lateral nasal sidewall into the flap, but tacking sutures need to be carefully placed in this area to minimize the risk of inducing flap ischemia.

When the primary lobe of the flap is placed into the surgical defect, care is taken not to oversize the flap. Over sizing dramatically increases the risk of developing a trapdoor deformity. The entire nasolabial flap is carefully anchored with buried sutures, and the epidermal closure is achieved with a running stitch. To restore the alar groove, a secondary procedure can be performed at a later date to improve the final aesthetic outcome of the repair.

Turn-over variant of nasolabial flap

An interesting variant of the nasolabial flap is the turn-over flap, initially described by Spear et al. [18] This nasolabial flap is flipped upon itself so that the skin of the medial cheek's donor site serves as both the internal nasal lining and the external nasal coverage. By repairing full-thickness wounds of the lateral ala in a single operative procedure, this flap makes an attractive alternative to the traditional staged repairs used for difficult full-thickness wounds in this area.

Island pedicle flap

The island pedicle flap is a V-Y advancement flap that is useful in the closure of deep surgical defects located in the lateral nasal sidewall area and in the closure of smaller wounds located in the nasal tip area. [19, 20] The base of the flap has predictably luxurious vascular input; therefore, a thick, easily mobile flap can be generated. When the flaps are used to reconstruct nasal wounds, attention should be directed toward the tapering area of the flap. If the flap tapers too rapidly, the secondary motion at the flap's donor site produces distracting vertical alar displacement.

Although the incision lines of the island pedicle flap can appear complicated, they are usually easily camouflaged within the naturally occurring anatomic landmarks if expert surgical technique is used. The island pedicle flap has a thick muscular base; therefore, the flap is predisposed to developing a pincushion deformity. To minimize the risk of developing this complication, some surgeons typically suture the flap carefully so that a central flap concavity is produced at the termination of the procedure. These physicians routinely use the island pedicle flap to close deep surgical wounds of the lateral sidewall or the nasal tip, particularly if mobile proximal nasal skin is not available (see the images below).

A deep surgical wound on the lateral nasal sidewal A deep surgical wound on the lateral nasal sidewall. Insufficient tissue is available on the proximal nose to harvest a flap that will cover the wound (same patient as in the following images).
Final aesthetic result of the island pedicle flap Final aesthetic result of the island pedicle flap repair. Note the excellent restoration of the nasal contour.

A retrospective study by Thorpe et al reported that out of 39 patients who underwent distal nose reconstruction with an island pedicle flap following Mohs micrographic surgery (defect size 0.7-1.7 cm), 38 (97%) had good to excellent cosmetic results. [21]

Pedicled nasolabial transposition flap

When the surgical defect is located closer to the nasal tip, reconstruction of the defect with a 1-step nasolabial transposition flap is not easily accomplished. Additionally, if the surgical wound on the distal nose is too large for a bilobed transposition flap or is not well suited for a dorsal nasal rotation flap, a pedicled flap can be considered.

Pedicled flaps offer distinct advantages in the reconstruction of the distal part of the nose. Surgical predictability is the primary advantage of pedicled flap reconstructions. The perfusion of the flaps is predictable because of their pedicled nature, and the flaps can be thinned appropriately to match the contour of the nasal tip. The disadvantages of pedicled flaps include the introduction of significant scarring at the donor site and the necessity to do at least 2 surgical procedures (creation and separation/insertion of the flap).

The pedicled nasolabial flap and the paramedian forehead flap are the 2 pedicled flaps that excel in the reconstruction of the distal part of the nose. [19, 20, 22, 23]

The pedicled nasolabial flap (see the images below) is often advantageous, because the donor's morbidity is considerably lower than that associated with the paramedian forehead flap. The donor scar is placed within the melolabial fold, rendering it nearly imperceptible. An appropriate donor site is selected within the melolabial fold area of the medial part of the cheek. The flap design is analogous to that of a 1-step nasolabial transposition flap (see Nasolabial Transposition Flap). As the flap is undermined, it is aggressively thinned at its tip to the level of the dermis. At the pedicled flap's origin area on the lateral part of the nose, undermining is carried much more deeply. This maneuver produces a highly vascular and thick muscular pedicle that ensures flap viability.

A nasal tip wound located medially (same patient a A nasal tip wound located medially (same patient as in the following images).
A pedicled flap has been used to reach this distan A pedicled flap has been used to reach this distant surgical defect. The donor morbidity of this pedicled nasolabial flap was predicted to be lower than the morbidity associated with a paramedian forehead flap. The pedicle will remain intact for approximately 3 weeks.
Final surgical result after separation of the flap Final surgical result after separation of the flap. Note the effective restoration of the nasal tip and the inapparent donor scar in the area of the medial cheek.

A thorough understanding of pivotal restraint is vital if the flap is used to cover wounds on the nasal tip. The flap undergoes significant shortening; therefore, the donor site in the melolabial fold must be longer than typically anticipated. The donor site is sutured appropriately after wide undermining, and the flap tip is thinned and placed onto the nasal tip. At 3 weeks, the pedicle is severed and inserted into the area of the medial part of the cheek. Then, the flap can be lifted gently and thinned to an appropriate contour. Careful intraoperative observations of the fullness of the nasal tip should be performed during the flap-thinning procedure. The author often slightly thins the flap more during this second procedure because of the nearly universal development of some pincushioning with this flap.

Paramedian forehead flap

The paramedian forehead flap is an axial pattern flap that relies on perfusion from the supratrochlear artery. [24] The flap has a predictable and luxurious vascular supply, rendering it highly useful in reconstructing large defects on the distal part of the nose (see the images below). Aesthetically, the nose is more important than the forehead; therefore, most physicians do not hesitate to place donor scars on the forehead to surgically reconstruct the more delicate distal part of the nose. [25]

A large surgical wound of the nasal tip and suprat A large surgical wound of the nasal tip and supratip areas following Mohs surgery for a recurrent basal cell carcinoma (same patient as in the following images).
The defect has been enlarged to match the nasal ae The defect has been enlarged to match the nasal aesthetic subunits, and the wound has been covered with a paramedian forehead flap. The pallor of the flap is merely a reflection of the use of local anesthetic with epinephrine.

The paramedian forehead flap is a 2-step procedure that is commonly and safely performed as an outpatient intervention. It provides excellent results in the reconstruction of the aesthetic subunits of the nose. [22, 23] The forehead has a large reservoir of donor tissue, and its skin has a close aesthetic match to the skin of the nasal tip. Therefore, the forehead flap offers unparalleled opportunities for successful nasal reconstruction; however, several distinct disadvantages are associated with the flap. This is a more involved surgical procedure; therefore, the patient's surgical morbidity is significantly increased.

The procedure is a 2-step procedure, and the patient's desire to undergo a staged procedure should be prospectively assessed. The donor scar on the forehead is often inconspicuous, but the patient needs to be counseled regarding the visibility of the scar and the slight medial migration of the brows, which are inherent to the flap.

Some authors use the paramedian forehead flap to reconstruct large wounds on the distal part of the nose. If the wound encompasses greater than 60-70% of the nasal aesthetic subunits, these physicians consider enlarging the surgical defect to fit the normal aesthetic unit boundaries. A 3-dimensional template of the surgical defect is made by using a foil suture package. The template is transposed to the forehead, on which a careful outline is made.

The supratrochlear artery can be located by using a Doppler ultrasonographic examination. However, it is reliable between 1.7 and 2.2 cm from the midline, and the authors never use a Doppler technique. [26] The flap's pedicle is designed to have a width of 1.3-1.5 cm. The flap is raised from the forehead, and the vascular pedicle is protected during wide undermining. The supratrochlear artery typically lies between the frontalis and the corrugator musculature. Dissection of the flap's pedicle near the orbital rim should be carefully performed. The flap's donor site is closed in a linear fashion. Occasionally, the wound-closure tension on the forehead is so great that the entire wound cannot be closed in a linear manner.

Some surgeons favor secondary healing of the remaining defect; these physicians believe skin grafts or local flaps are aesthetically inferior compared with secondary intention healing on the superior aspect of the forehead. The flap is transposed to cover the nasal defect, and it should be sewn under minimal- to no wound-closure tension to prevent anatomic distortion of the nose and to preserve the flap's vascular supply. The flap is separated and inserted at 3 weeks. At that time, the flap can also be appropriately thinned. Alternatively, the flap can also be aggressively thinned at this 3-week intervention, while keeping the axial, superior vascular input and the distal connection to the alar rim or tip intact. Several months after the initial procedure, a subsequent procedure can be performed to further thin the flap and to reintroduce the alar grooves, if required.

Using folded forehead flaps to replace both the nasal lining and the external skin of complicated, full-thickness nasal wounds has gained renewed popularity. The forehead flap can be folded upon itself to line the nasal vestibule, and architecturally important cartilage grafts can be added at an interim step several weeks after the creation of the flap's pedicle. Folded forehead flaps can remove the requirement to line nasal defects with difficult intranasal mucosal flaps, and the predictable perfusion of the forehead flap improves its versatility in the repair of deep and difficult nasal wounds. [27]  Unfortunately, getting reliable tissue with a good blood supply that is long enough to cover both internal and external defects and the fact that this creates such a thick flap really limits this reconstructive option. There are several better internal nasal lining options that will be discussed later in this chapter. 

Total rhinectomy defects

The nose can be divided into three sections: the outer skin, the middle structural architecture, and the inner lining. Total rhinectomy involves removing all three layers. Patients who undergo total rhinectomy are more prone to feelings of depression and rejection and to dealing with social issues, from an unsightly cosmetic defect.

Among cancers requiring total rhinectomy, such as basal cell carcinoma and melanoma, the most common is squamous cell carcinoma. [28] Cancers with the primary location of columella or nasal vestibule are aggressive because of the thin soft tissue, which provides little resistance to invasion. Once the cancer invades through the soft tissue and into the nasal framework, it can spread through the lymphatic channels into other parts of the face.

The patient should be properly counseled preoperatively on reconstruction for total nasal defects. It is crucial that the patient has a full understanding of the extent of his or her cancer and the surgical defect required to eradicate it. Among the decisions the surgeon should consider for reconstructive methods, the first should be whether to perform a flap reconstruction or to place a nasal prosthesis. 

Nasal prosthesis 

The use of a nasal prosthesis is preferred in patients with a poor prognosis, those with poorly vascularized tissue secondary to comorbidities, patients in whom close oncologic monitoring is needed, and those with large-sized defects. [29] Patients with a poor prognosis are likely have extensive comorbidities and be unable to tolerate free flap procedures or long surgical durations under anesthesia. A nasal prosthesis avoids a lengthy surgical procedure and is technically easier to provide. Additionally, the patient still has the option of a flap procedure in the future. Patients with extensive cancer may need a higher degree of surveillance, which is possible with a nasal prosthesis rather than with wound obliteration or tissue rearrangement through a flap procedure.

Although there are many advantages to a nasal prosthesis, there are also a number of nuances. The prosthesis can easily become dislodged, which can cause psychologic stress for the patient in public. Moreover, the prosthesis has to be maintained and cleaned consistently to avoid bacterial contamination, and due to its bulkiness, the prosthesis has poor function and can cause air flow obstruction. The prosthesis does not aid in the humidification or filtration of the nose like the turbinates do, but fortunately the turbinates are often retained during a total rhinectomy. [30] Altered airflow after a rhinectomy can produce drying and crusting that require constant cleaning of the nose and paranasal sinuses. Therefore, elements promoting a dry nose, such as allergies, environmental factors, and medications like antihistamines, should be decreased. [31]

Another limiting factor is access to an experienced prosthodontist. Nasal prostheses must have good functionality but also be cosmetically acceptable, and populations in smaller communities may not have access to a highly skilled prosthodontic specialist. Moreover, patients who live in a location with sun exposure may require a prosthesis with a darker complexion for the summer and a fair complexed one for the winter.

A study by Becker et al, which included 43 patients who had undergone a partial or total rhinectomy, found that prostheses were used for an average of 17.4 hours per day. There was an 83% overall satisfaction in appearance, and over 85% of patients were happy with the function. [32] It is important for patients with a nasal prosthesis to have sufficient stability for their daily activities. The patient should expect to change their nasal prosthesis every 2 years.

Moolenburgh et al evaluated patients based on aesthetic outcomes after subtotal and total rhinectomy. Using a scale of between 1 and 5, with 5 being the most satisfactory, the average score for these patients was 4.2, which is similar to results found by Becker et al. Interestingly, while the subjective aesthetic outcome for patients was 4.2, the average score from a panel of plastic surgeons was 3.5. This highlights the difference between self-perception and external perception.  [33]

Nasal prostheses are attached to the nasal wound through various methods. The surgeon plans the resection to allow the prosthesis to be supported securely, and medical silicone-based adhesives can aid in attaching the prosthesis to the skin. Another option is an eyeglass frame fixed to the nasal prosthesis; the major disadvantage of this is that the patient must keep their glasses on their face for retention of the prosthesis. Osseointegrated implants attach the prosthesis to the zygoma, floor of the nose, glabella, orbital rim, and maxilla. These require at least 3 mm of healthy bone and are not to be used in patients with prior surgery or radiation, which may compromise the vascularity of the bone. [29] Please see below for before and after pictures of nasal reconstructions. 

Patient with well-healed total rhinectomy defect. Patient with well-healed total rhinectomy defect. Courtesy of Jeffery Markt, MD.
Patient with total rhinectomy defect and nasal pro Patient with total rhinectomy defect and nasal prosthesis in place. Courtesy of Jeffery Markt, MD.

Flap Reconstruction

Flap reconstruction is favored in patients who cannot manage the daily care of a prosthesis. These patients may have a psychiatric illness or may have frailty issues affecting their activities of daily living. Another consideration is the surgeon’s comfort level and experience with regard to the performance of flap reconstruction.

Although flap reconstruction provides a better match with respect to skin color, thickness, and texture, it does have disadvantages. A flap requires a donor site, which introduces the potential for complications and the need for further surgery. This increases the risk of surgical morbidity. Flaps affect the patient from an oncologic perspective as well. They may delay the initiation of postoperative radiation to allow the flap to heal. Furthermore, the flap does not allow for an ideal environment to survey the tissue for potential recurrence. 

Inner lining 

In total nasal reconstruction, the inner lining is crucial from a functional, as well as an aesthetic, standpoint. If the inner lining is not reconstructed, secondary intention healing would allow cicatricial contractile forces to distort the nasal framework. Also, the structural framework and the cartilage or bone graft would be exposed to bacterial colonization. [34] This would increase risk for wound infections and graft extrusion, resulting in a poor cosmetic result. Reconstructing the thin mucosa allows maintenance of nasal humidification, filtration, and temperature regulation. The inner lining can be repaired with different techniques, depending on the surgeon’s reconstructive ladder. The least invasive methods involve secondary intention and primary repair for suitable small defects. Other reconstructive options include the use of bipedicled vestibular advancement, inferior turbinate mucoperichondrium, septal mucoperichondrial flaps, septal pivotal flaps, and a radial forearm fasciocutaneous flap.  [35]

When reconstructing the inner lining of the nose, the surgeon must consider many factors for each particular defect. Most importantly, negative oncologic margins must be confirmed. Next, the surgeon must determine the size, location, and extent of the nasal lining defect. It is imperative to take a detailed history and perform a physical examination to rule out preexisting septal incisions, surgery, and pathology that would hinder the repair. The surgeon should take the time to inject the subcutaneous tissue surrounding the defect in anticipation of undermining and adjacent facial units.

Bipedicled vestibular advancement flaps are useful for full-thickness defects less than 1 cm in size. This flap is based on the vestibular floor and nasal septum. An intercartilaginous incision is made from the nasal septum to the lateral nasal wall. The thin vestibular flap is released from its surrounding attachments and advanced so that the caudal border reaches the nostril margin. To provide structure, auricular cartilage is often secured to the internal nasal lining using 5-0 Monocryl sutures. Finally, a thin full-thickness skin graft is placed over top, or a flap such as melolabial interpolated cheek flap is used.

Inferior turbinate flaps are helpful for small to moderate alae defects. The flap is based on a vascular pedicle on the anterior portion of the inferior turbinate. The posterior inferior turbinate is incised, and the mucoperichondrium is elevated anteriorly using a Cottle elevator. The mucosa is delivered out of the nasal passage and pivoted 180 degrees to line the lateral nasal vestibule. The turbinate bone is carefully dissected off the thin, pliable flap.

Septal mucoperichondrial hinge flaps have a robust blood supply. The superior labial arteries provide septal branches that nourish the anterior septum. These flaps are useful for full-thickness defects of the unilateral tip or ala that are greater than 1.5 cm in vertical height, with the flap being up to 4.5 cm long and 3.0 cm wide. To perform reconstruction with this flap, two horizontal incisions are made; the superior is the height of the caudal septum, and the inferior is the floor of the nose. The surgeon can use a scalpel with an extended handle to make an incision from posterior to anterior, approximately 1.5 cm posterior to the bony/cartilaginous junction of the septum. The same can be done inferiorly along the floor of the nose up to the nasal spine anteriorly.

Next, a right-angle scalpel is used to connect the incisions. The septal mucoperichondrial flap is then elevated anteriorly and delivered from the nasal passage. This is sutured to the cartilage and allowed to heal for 3 weeks, until detachment. The exposed bone that was stripped of its mucoperiosteum and perichondrium is left to heal by secondary intention. The alternative technique is to piecemeal the bone or cartilage, taking care to not injure the contralateral mucoperichondrium. It is crucial to protect the cartilage grafts from exposure to the nasal passage, in order to prevent contamination of the grafts with nasal secretions and to enable vascularization of the undersurface of the grafts. [35]

Patient with right full-thickness defect of the lo Patient with right full-thickness defect of the lower third of the nose. A robust nasoseptal mucoperichondrial flap is used for the internal nasal lining, based on the anterior blood supply. Flap to be taken down in 3 weeks.

For large lining defects, the contralateral mucoperichondrium may be used to help line the caudal portion of the nose. This requires a dorsal and caudal strut on the septum. The ipsilateral flap is harvested as described above. Next, the exposed septal cartilage is removed, taking care to preserve a dorsal strut for the nasal bridge. Lateral reflection of the contralateral flap is then performed, with this flap being placed across the midline toward the side of the lining defect. The contralateral flap is laid horizontally, and the ipsilateral flap is hinged caudally. Utilizing this technique, unfortunately, results in a large perforation of the nose. The flaps are secured by suspending them from the framework with mattress sutures.

For total rhinectomy cases in which there are bilateral full-thickness nasal tip and columella defects but an intact septum, a composite septal pivotal flap may be used. The composite septum is pivoted 90 degrees anteriorly and secured to a dorsal septal strut. It may be useful to remove a small portion of septum cartilage or bone at the nasal spine to allow adequate pivoting. Inadequate pivoting may result in an over-rotated nose. Once the composite flap is secured, bilateral mucoperichondrial flaps are elevated and reflected laterally to be inset to the remnant alae.

Middle structural support

The middle layer of the nose, which provides structural support, is important not only for aesthetics but for function as well. The structure of the nose allows for adequate nasal inflow, preventing nasal valve and midvault collapse. It also provides tip projection and is the basis for distinct nasal features such as the lateral nasal subunits and alae. There are various graft materials that can be used in structural support defects, including rib, calvarium, auricular cartilage, septal cartilage, and bone. The type of graft required depends on each unique defect and the surgeon's discretion. 

The rib cartilage has incredible versatility with respect to shape, width, and length. It is often used for reconstruction, as there is an abundant supply of cartilage that can be employed for any type of nasal reconstruction. However, this requires a separate incision, resulting in a chest scar. Although a low risk, the patient may develop a pneumothorax as well. The fifth, sixth, or seventh rib is often used for harvest.  A no. 15 blade is utilized to make a skin incision, and the subcutaneous, fascial, and muscle layers are dissected with electrocautery. After exposure of the intended rib, the perichondrium is incised along the rib's length. Perpendicular cuts are made on the lateral and medial ends of the cartilaginous rib. The lateral extent of the dissection is delineated by the costochondral junction. The medial dissection limit is the sternum and rib cartilage junction. An elevator is used to then raise perichondrial flaps based on the superior and inferior border of the cartilage. The perichondrium is followed posteriorly until the posterior rib is exposed. If a rib stripper is available, it is then placed on the posterior aspect of the rib to complete the dissection, and the cartilage is incised at the osseocartilaginous junction. The cartilage is disarticulated with a Freer elevator. 

Reconstruction with calvarial bone is a procedure that provides a rigid substance for strong support. Moreover, the bone is resistant to warping, which can occur with some cartilage grafts, and the reconstruction technique has demonstrated minimal long-term complication rates. [36] To perform this procedure, a sagittal temporoparietal incision is made over the superior temporal line on the scalp. The incision is approximately 6 cm in length and positioned about 6 cm lateral to the sagittal sinus. Dissect down to the calvarium, and elevate the pericranium superiorly and inferiorly. Next, an otologic cutting burr is used to outline the length of bone graft required. Using the burr, create a trough around the graft. Bleeding is observed when the diploic level is encountered. Osteotomies are then performed in a plane tangential to the skull to prevent dural injury. The calvarial bone can then be fashioned into an L-strut or any remaining structural support. This is usually fixed with miniplanes to allow for central stability. 

Photo of upper nasal vault defect secondary to bas Photo of upper nasal vault defect secondary to basal cell carcinoma. Total loss of the nasal root can be seen, and there is a planned paramedian forehead flap.
Photo of cantilevered calvarial bone harvested fro Photo of cantilevered calvarial bone harvested from the left parietal region and affixed with miniplates to rebuild the bony vault of the nose.
Postoperative photo at 6 months showing strong nas Postoperative photo at 6 months showing strong nasal root and well-matched nasal skin from the forehead.

Patients with immunosuppression, poor local tissue, tissue with insufficient vascularity, or irradiated tissue may need vascularized tissue from a distant source. Distant tissue can close dead space, fill a cavity, protect vital structures, create a barrier between the nose and oral cavity, and close a fistula. Use of a fasciocutaneous radial forearm free flap is an option for surgeons trained in microvascular surgery. The nondominant hand is assessed using a modified Allen test to ensure complete palmar arch. Incisions are made, and the skin paddle is raised suprafascially until the edge of the brachioradialis tendon, in which subfascial dissection is performed. The pedicle is identified and followed proximally to the antecubital fossa. The tourniquet is let down, and the flap is completely harvested and placed in the nasal wound defect for insetting. The fasciocutaneous flap is thin and allows for complete coverage of inner lining for the intranasal defect. During radical resection cases, it is important to reconstruct the lip and cheek first so that the nose is able to sit on a stable platform. The pedicle is then tunneled subcutaneously into the neck. The major utility of free tissue transfer is as a procedure to employ when local vascularized tissue is unavailable. This tissue will not contract or scar and can be revised in the future. [37]

Preoperative photo of patient with small-appearing Preoperative photo of patient with small-appearing but very infiltrative tumor of the inferior nose.


Photo showing intraoperative total nasal defect af Photo showing intraoperative total nasal defect after frozen margins are all found to be negative.
Photo of left radial forearm free flap design for Photo of left radial forearm free flap design for the internal lining of the nose, to act as the framework. The rest of the nose was reconstructed with rib cartilage grafts and a paramedian forehead flap for the external defect.
Total nasal reconstruction at 3 months postoperati Total nasal reconstruction at 3 months postoperatively.




Suture care

Following the completion of the reconstructive procedure, liberal ointment (antibacterial ointment or bland petrolatum) is applied to the suture line. We tend to leave the wound open, not only to enable the patient to identify any changes to the operative bed but also to avoid sticky, messy, or obstructive dressings. The patient is instructed to clean the wound with sodium chloride solution and to reapply ointment three times a day for the entire time the sutures remain in place.

The sutures are removed within 5-7 days. Longer suture retention promotes poor aesthetic results by causing visible suture tracks, particularly on the sebaceous nose. After suture removal, the patient is typically given instructions to follow up in 6-8 weeks to determine the need for additional intervention, which is uncommon. Flap contouring procedures and elective dermabrasion are occasionally required for revision techniques if the aesthetic results from initial efforts at reconstruction have been less than ideal.

Complications of nasal reconstruction

Nasal reconstructive procedures can be safe and effective with proper training, patient selection, surgical planning, and operative technique. Surprisingly, few complications are associated with properly designed and performed nasal reconstructive surgery. Risks, as with any surgical procedure, include operative site bleeding, hematoma formation, wound infection, and tissue necrosis. Although the risks of bleeding are always present, the incidence of hemorrhagic complications can be minimized with proper patient selection and surgical technique. Wound infections on the nose are exceedingly uncommon. To prevent infections resulting from flap or graft repair of the nose, some surgeons routinely use empiric antibiotics designed to cover staphylococcal organisms. Again, we only use antibiotics in the case of graft material. 

Because the nose has aesthetic prominence, tissue necrosis can have a disastrous impact on patients. Certainly, skin grafts have a higher risk of ischemia than skin flaps. If the recipient site of the graft is properly prepared, the incidence of skin graft loss is low. Total loss of the graft is uncommon. If partial or total graft loss occurs, the wound is allowed to heal by secondary intention, and a revision procedure is considered after complete healing has occurred. Flap necrosis on the nose is exceedingly uncommon in nonsmoking patients if proper understanding of flap dynamics is achieved.

Probably more important than the aesthetic aspects of the nose are the functional components. If the nose is distorted such that the internal or external nasal valves are damaged, it can have a devastating effect on the patient's ability to breathe normally. Patients can get over poor cosmetic outcomes, but functional limitations almost always guarantee secondary or even tertiary procedures to fix the problem at hand. Primary reconstruction with sound clinical judgement is therefore paramount.  

Patient Education

There is no substitute for appropriate and full preoperative disclosure regarding potential surgical defects, scars, secondary procedures, and length of time dealing with pedicled flaps. The nose is one of the most centrally recognized areas of the face, and therefore extreme care needs to be exercised when counseling patients about reconstruction. With all of the convexities and concavities present on the nose, it is sometime difficult to get it all right the first go around; consequently, making patients aware of reasonable expectations is of the utmost importance.

Certainly, care should also be exercised in patients who use tobacco heavily; however, the influence of cigarette smoking on the survival of small nasal flaps is likely limited, unless tobacco use is extreme. Other factors that may have a negative impact on the success of nasal reconstruction (as with any surgical procedure) include bleeding diatheses, chronic malnutrition, underlying severe disease/general debility, and unrealistic patient expectations.

Patients should also realize that postoperatively, if they experience pain, redness, drainage, pus, foul smell, fever, or bleeding, these can be emergencies, and individuals should be counseled that if any of these issues occur, they need to be seen immediately. 

Lastly, pain control with narcotics is not generally necessary after these procedures. The authors routinely send patients home with Tylenol and ibuprofen, and it is rare that we have complaints about pain control or the need for opioids. In the current climate of extreme opiate abuse, physicians need to exercise restraint and only prescribe narcotics when absolutely necessary.