Earlobe Repair Surgery: Fixing Stretched or Ripped Earlobes
Most patients who come to us with complaints about their earlobes have experienced one of three general issues: either the lobes have been stretched, torn, or are sagging due to aging. Fortunately, earlobe repair surgery is a simple, safe, and effective way to restore the ear to a more a natural appearance.
If you are considering an earlobe fixing surgery, here are the basic things to know:
Common Cosmetic Earlobe Issues
The earlobes are solely composed of skin and fat; there is no underlying bone or cartilage to help maintain its structure. This makes earlobes extremely susceptible to becoming stretched. Earlobe stretching can occur by accident, through either the constant wearing of heavy earrings or a positioning of piercings close to the edge of the lobe. Severe stretching can permanently alter the appearance of the ear.
Stretching can also be caused intentionally through ear gauging, which is the process of gradually expanding the hole created through traditional ear piercing by wearing gauges that increase in size. The practice, which results in a large hole in the lobe, has been practice by tribal cultures for many years but has become popular in Western cultures over the last decade. While the holes created by normal piercing can close (heal) naturally, stretch holes created through gauging can only be closed through surgical repair.
Occasionally we treat patients with some form of earlobe tears, often the result of some form of trauma (either their earring got caught and tugged or it was pulled by a small child). Tearing of the earlobe can sometimes be severe, where the tear occurs from the pierce hole to the bottom of the lobe, literally splitting the lobe in half.
With normal aging, the earlobes (like the skin itself) begins to lose collagen and elasticity. This causes the lobes to sag, loose volume (appear thin), and become elongated. Aging can actually prevent the lobes from being able to support the weight of even small stud earrings.
What Is Earlobe Repair Surgery?
Earlobe repair surgery (also called earlobe restoration) is a simple in-office surgical procedure that can be performed to fix earlobe tearing, stretching, or sagging. The procedure begins with the ears being marked for surgical incision. Next, a local anesthetic is injected into the earlobe that makes the lobe numb for around two hours. Many patients state the only pain they feel is during this quick injection. The physician will then make incisions to remove (trim) stretched tissue and/or cut the skin around a tear. Finally, the earlobe is repaired with stiches.
How Long Does the Procedure Take?
While procedure time can differ based on patient need, most earlobe repair procedures take between 15 minutes and 1 hour to perform from start to finish.
Is Earlobe Repair Painful?
Patients usually state the only part of the procedure that is painful is the initial injection of a local anesthesia. Post procedure, most patients will only require ice and acetaminophen (Tylenol) to manage discomfort.
What is recovery like?
Downtime is minimal for earlobe repair surgery. The ears will be wrapped and bandaged for the first day post-procedure. Over the first week, the earlobes should be cleaned daily and antibiotic ointment applied to prevent infection. The patient should also avoid sleeping on or applying pressure to the lobe until the stitches are removed. Stitches can get wet in the shower after three days. Within a week, most patients will see their surgeon and have their stitches removed. Patients may notice a bright red scar where the incisions where made, which will fade away with continued healing. The repaired lobes should be protected from the sun with sunscreen and a hat for 3 months.
Can I pierce my ears after surgery?
It is possible to pierce the ears after earlobe repair surgery, as long as the new piercing does is not placed in the scar (to minimize the chance of future stretching or tearing). Patients will have to wait 3 months before re-piercing to allow for adequate healing.
Learn more about earlobe repair and other cosmetic ear surgery procedures on our Otoplasty page.