There are several ways that a piercing can damage the earlobe, since it is mainly skin and fat and more apt to tear than other parts of the body. The piercing may be too high or low. Heavy earrings can cause the earlobe to droop over time, creating fitting issues when wearing earrings. Keloid scars can form over simple piercings or tears. The earring may be pulled by a child, causing a painful split. Splits can also be caused by other trauma, such as athletic injuries or catching the earring on clothing.
There is also the ear gauging trend among young adults, which is the process of stretching an earlobe gradually with larger jewelry over time. Sometimes, gauging can lead to a “point of no return”, which is when the earlobe will not return to its natural shape without surgical intervention. Although ear piercing and gauging are relatively safe, there is always the chance that damage can occur. Reconstructive surgery can reverse this damage and give immediate benefits to the patient.
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Benefits of Reconstructive Earlobe Repair
There are several benefits to repairing earlobes with surgery. The results are permanent and will provide an immediate boost to self-esteem. Earrings can usually be worn again in 2 months and will fit better. In the case of stretched earlobe repair, normal earrings can be worn again and a natural appearance is restored. Repaired earlobes can also enhance a person’s career and appearance. It is one of the most common procedures done in reconstructive surgery clinics.
What Kind of Surgery Is Needed?
For a drooping earlobe caused by heavy or gauged earrings, stretched earlobe surgery can remediate the issue. A flap technique may also be performed, using tissue from another area of the body to repair the earlobe. Split earlobe surgery is done for earlobes which have entirely split. It depends on the extent of the damage, but usually surgical repairs for piercing injuries are quick and relatively painless. Most surgeries are done with local anesthetic and take 15 minutes to an hour to complete.
Will Insurance Cover Surgery?
The total cost will generally run about 400-900 dollars per ear, depending on the damage involved. Extensive damage or extreme gauging may cost more. Most insurance companies do not cover earlobe reconstructive surgery, as it is considered a cosmetic procedure. However, many clinics offer financing to help ease the cost of the repair. Consult with a board-certified surgeon to find out if financing is available.
What to Expect During Surgery
Earlobe surgeries are usually very quick, most taking less than an hour. It is typically done on an outpatient basis. Local anesthesia is used for most surgeries and it is a simple injection into the earlobe. During split earlobe surgery, the surgeon will use sutures to connect the two sides of the earlobe. Stretched earlobe surgery uses the same concept as repairing split earlobes, but the surgeon will also cut away any tissue lining the tear. Sometimes, repairing stretched earlobes may take 2 surgical sessions to repair as the excised tissue will need to heal first and swelling subsided before the sutures can be placed.
There may be small scars on the ear following surgery, but these will fade within a few months. Pain is usually minimal and OTC medications such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen will provide relief. Drainage from the surgical site is expected. The surgeon will guide the patient through post-care measures, such as pain medication and cleaning your incisions. Stitches are usually removed after a week and earrings can typically be worn again within a couple of months. If the earlobe is heavily stretched, the lobe may appear shorter after reconstructive surgery. However, it will still look natural and able to hold small earrings after the earlobe has healed. Most surgical repairs leave the earlobe in a weaker state than before, so it’s best to wear small studs or light earrings. Avoid heavy earrings and ear gauging is not advised. Be careful with any dressings put on the earlobe and apply antibiotic ointment to prevent infections. Downtime is not necessary. Most patients will have no issues driving home after the surgery and can return to work the following day.
Meet Dr. Philip S. Schoenfeld
Dr. Philip S. Schoenfeld, M.D., F.A.C.S is certified by the American Board of Facial, Plastic, and Reconstructive Surgery and a leading provider of otoplasty in both Maryland, VA, and Washington D.C. areas. He was voted one of the Top 50 plastic surgeons in 2015 and participates in numerous philanthropic organizations, such as the Face-to-Face program, which provides free care to victims of domestic violence. For more information on Dr.Schoenfeld and how to schedule an appointment with his award-winning clinic, please visit his website at www.renudc.com.