Utilization of a partial rib-sparing procedure in microvascular breast reconstruction for preserving intercostal nerve and nipple reconstruction

Published:August 23, 2022DOI:



      In microvascular breast reconstruction, internal mammary vessel (IMV) exposure has been performed. The preservation of intercostal nerve (ICN) is effective for preserving sensibility and decreasing postoperative pain. In nipple reconstruction, cartilage grafting is performed to provide additional support and projection. We considered that ICN preservation and costal cartilage banking could be performed simultaneously. This method was described as the “partial rib-sparing procedure.” The purpose of this study was to introduce this procedure.


      Surgical technique of this procedure was as follows. The second intercostal space was used. The width of the trimmed cartilage was kept within the superior half of the third costal cartilage. Soft tissue within 5 mm of the inferior border of the second rib edge was preserved to save the second ICN. The length of IMVs in the partial rib-sparing procedure and that in the total rib-sparing procedure was compared.


      The number of patients in the partial rib-sparing and total rib-sparing groups was 137 procedures and 57 procedures, respectively. The length of IMVs was significantly longer in the partial rib-sparing procedure (median 20.5 mm vs. 17.6 mm, P < 0.001). In the partial rib-sparing group, no patient complained of prolonged local pain, and chest wall contour abnormalities were absent in all cases.


      The partial rib-sparing procedure is superior, especially for patients with narrow intercostal spaces and/or patients who decide to undergo nipple reconstruction with costal cartilage. This procedure could be performed to preserve the soft tissues around the ICN and decrease the postoperative pain.


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