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January 1996

Vascular Anatomy of the Nose and the External Rhinoplasty Approach

Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 1996;122(1):24-34. doi:10.1001/archotol.1996.01890130020003

Objective:  To characterize the venous, lymphatic, and arterial blood supply of the nose and determine the effect of the external rhinoplasty approach on this vasculature. We hypothesized that dissection in the areolar tissue plane below the musculoaponeurotic layer of the nose will preserve the nasal vasculature and minimize postoperative nasal tip edema.

Design:  The study included preoperative and postoperative clinical evaluation, cadaver dissection, and histologic examination. In the clinical section, lymphoscintigraphy was performed before and after rhinoplasty using the endonasal (transnostril) or external (open) approach. Additionally, nasal tip edema was subjectively quantified at specified intervals after surgery. In the cadaver dissection section, 15 fresh cadavers were dissected to identify the venous and arterial vasculature. In the histology section, fresh nasal tissue was examined by light microscopy to verify the anatomy of arteries, veins, and lymphatic vessels.

Setting:  Subjects for the clinical section of the study were volunteers undergoing primary rhinoplasty surgery at the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Chicago.

Patients:  Lymphoscintigraphy was performed on nine patients who underwent rhinoplasty surgery. Seven of these patients underwent postoperative lymphoscintigraphy.

Interventions:  The rhinoplasty procedures included three different methods of exposure of the nasal structures. Two patients underwent an endonasal (transnostril) nondelivery approach using a transcartilaginous incision. Five patients underwent the external approach with three receiving dissection in the areolar tissue plane below the musculoaponeurotic layer (preserving major nasal vasculature) and two undergoing dissection above the musculoaponeurotic layer (disrupting nasal vasculature).

Main Outcome Measures:  In the clinical section of the study, the outcome measures were tracer flow as seen on lymphoscintigraphy and tip edema scores subjectively quantitated on a scale from 1 (none) to 4 (maximal).

Results:  Clinical Section: Lymphoscintigraphy revealed flow of tracer along the lateral aspect of the nose (cephalic to lateral crura) to the preparotid lymph nodes. Postoperative scans revealed preservation of flow of tracer with the endonasal (transnostril) approach and the external approach with submusculoaponeurotic areolar tissue plane dissection. There was loss of normal flow of tracer with the external approach using dissection that disrupted the musculoaponeurotic layer with supratip debulking. The nasal tip edema scores for the transnostril and external approach using areolar plane dissection were significantly lower than the external approach with disruption of the musculoaponeurotic layer. Cadaver Dissection Section: Other than the lateral nasal veins, the major arteries, veins, and lymphatic vessels ran superficial to the musculoaponeurotic layer of the nose. The lateral and dorsal nasal and the columellar arteries comprise an alar arcade that provides the major blood supply to the flap elevated in the external rhinoplasty approach. Histologic Section: Light microscopy of plastic resin sections verified the lymphoscintigraphic and cadaver dissection findings. The lymphatic vessels were located primarily in the reticular dermis above the muscle layer.

Conclusions:  The major arterial, venous, and lymphatic vasculature courses in or above the musculoaponeurotic layer of the nose. In the external rhinoplasty approach, dissection in the areolar tissue plane below the musculoaponeurotic layer will minimize tip edema and protect against skin necrosis by preserving the major vascular supply to the nasal tip.(Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 1996;122:24-34)

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