Earlobe surgery is performed to repair earlobes that have been torn by earrings or trauma, or that have been intentionally stretched through the body piercing practice known as gauging. It is not the same as ear pinning (otoplasty), which is performed to correct protruding or misshapen ears. Regardless, a torn or stretched earlobe can cause distress to the patient who wants to continue to wear earrings or would like to restore symmetry to their earlobes. The earlobe is made up of skin and fat only, thus making it more prone to tearing than other parts of the ear, which are composed of heavy cartilage. The earlobe can be torn by large, heavy earrings that pull downward. Tears can also occur if earrings are yanked by children or caught in clothing or other objects. In some cases, the tears may continue through the bottom of the earlobe, causing a split lobe. Although some earlobe tears may heal over time, they can result in unsightly scars that make it hard to re-pierce the ear or wear earrings. Our expert cosmetic and plastic surgeon, Dr. Mountcastle, will carefully plan and adjust the procedure according to the patient’s current condition and appearance.
The degree of the earlobe tear helps to determine the type of repair needed. Fortunately, it is possible to repair earlobe piercing holes that have been stretched or split. The surgical reconstruction, which can take anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour, is done under local anesthesia. The inner lining of the tear will be excised and then the front and back of the ear are sutured to repair the tear. (The sutures are removed about one week after surgery) Usually, Dr. Mountcastle can correct multiple earlobe tears for a patient in a single sitting.
Only local anesthesia is required and typically takes less than one hour to complete in the office.
There is minimal discomfort after earlobe repair and if necessary, Tylenol or Motrin are effective for any mild discomfort. Patients are able to return to work immediately following the procedure. Your earlobe should be sufficiently healed to withstand a new piercing about 6-8 weeks following the procedure. Incisions usually heal well, leaving only a faint white line. Silicone-based scar creams are recommended during the healing process.
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EARLOBE REPAIR FAQs
How long until I can re-pierce my ears?
In general, you should wait at least 6 weeks for the scar to be completely healed before you re-pierce your ears. This is important because if you pierce your ears before the incision is fully healed, the earring may pull through the incision and you could end up with a separated earlobe.
How much time off from work or school is required?
No time is required out of work or school after an earlobe repair.
What limitations do I have post-surgery?
Patients are advised to wait 24 hours post surgery to shower and wash their hair. You may also start light exercise the next day. It is advised that you avoid sleeping on a flat surface immediately following surgery. Spend the first night slightly elevated to minimize swelling.
Can I re-pierce my ears in the exact same place as before?
It is advised that when the time comes to re-pierce your ears, you should do so in a slightly different place than the original piercing hole. The reason for this is that the original piercing hole is within the new scar, and the scar is never as strong as normal, unscarred skin. Placing the piercing hole within the scar can lead to the earring pulling through the scar and a repeat split earlobe.
Are there any risks or complications?
All types of surgery have potential complications. Complications associated with an earlobe repair are excessive scar formation, infection, notching, and recurrence.