Ear Injuries and Split Earlobes
What are traumatic ear injuries?
Traumatic ear injuries may be caused lacerations, tears, bites, or other forceful motions or impact (such as motor vehicle accidents). These injuries can result in malformations and disfigurement of the ear.
Typically, traumatic ear injuries are initially evaluated and treated in the emergency department. This involves irrigation (cleaning) of the wound, debridement (removal) of unhealthy tissue or debris, and careful closure of the skin and torn cartilage. This will usually result in a satisfactory shape.
If part of the ear is completely detached or if the entire ear has been amputated, your surgeon will discuss options for reconstruction of the ear. Your doctor may reconstruct the ear using cartilage from other parts of the body such as the ribs as well as transferring skin from other areas of the body such as behind the ear. In some cases, ear reconstruction occurs in multiple stages.
In some scenarios, doctors may attempt to reattach the ear (replantation) using microsurgical techniques to restore circulation to the severed part.
One common type of traumatic ear injury is a split earlobe. Most split earlobes occur gradually due to large or heavy earrings. In some instances, the earlobe is split traumatically because an earring gets caught or is pulled forcefully. Repair of split earlobes requires making an incision along the defect to expose the underlying raw edges, followed by careful suture repair of the two edges. Depending on your child’s age and the extent of the injury, repair may be done under local anesthesia in the doctor’s office, or in the operating room under anesthesia. Repair of a split earlobe will leave a permanent scar. Your surgeon will request that you allow several months of healing before the ear is pierced again.
Earlobe holes that have been intentionally dilated using progressively larger earrings are challenging to reconstruct. Repair involves excision of the edges of the defect and careful rearrangement of the residual earlobe tissue to form a more conventional shape and contour. This will also leave permanent scars.
Reviewed by David W. Low, MD