By Michael Winter, USA TODAY
Behold the thinking man's nose job.
Using skin and cartilage from a patient's ribs, Chinese doctors are growing a replacement nose on the forehead of a 22-year-old man injured in a car accident last year, according to a Reuters report picked up by news organizations.
The technique, reportedly a first, updates a common practice in reconstructive plastic surgery, doctors say.
The patient, nicknamed Xiaolian, received only basic treatment after the August 2012 wreck and could not afford surgery. His nose has become so badly infected that it cannot be saved.
Doctors in Fuzhou City, in Fujian province, decided to try the novel approach to growing a nose, which has taken about nine months.
LiveScience explains the procedure:
"The man's doctors placed tissue expanders, which create space to stretch the skin, under the man's forehead, and created the rough shape of a nose, probably using screws and plates. They then harvested cartilage from his ribs to fill in the nose. Once the nose is ready, they will rotate the entire assemblage - skin, blood vessels, cartilage and all - and move the new nose to where his current nose sits."
The lead plastic surgeon, Guo Zhihui, from Xiehe Hospital, said that the transplant would happen soon and that Xiaolian could lead a normal life afterward.
David Cangello, a plastic surgeon at Lenox Hill Hospital and Manhattan, Eye Ear and Throat Hospital in New York, told LiveScience that the procedure is "a different take on a principle that we commonly use in reconstruction." He was not involved in the surgery.
Last year, a British man who lost his nose to cancer had a replacement grown on one of his arms. His doctors said his appearance and sense of smell should be as they were before the transplant.