The ear lobe has a special importance among facial structures. It is particularly important due to the practice in many parts of the world of piercing it in order to wear ear rings.
The ear lobe consists of skin and fat. Unlike the rest of the ear, it does not have any thick cartilage. Hence, it is easy to perforate an ear lobe. Many cultures encourage the piercing of the ear lobe for adorning jewellery. And the present trend among the young generation for body piercing adds to the possibility of ear lobe rupture. While some ear lobe tears may heal with time, many require medical attention. Most of the times, ear lobe repair is needed due to damage induced by wearing heavy ear rings or other such jewellery. In some cases, it may be because of someone (mostly a child) tugging on the earlobe / ear ring.
Regardless of the source of trauma, earlobe tears can be categorized into partial, multiple or complete tears. According to tears, earlobe repair can be classified as :
Incomplete cleft - this is usually bilateral and frequently found in elderly women who have worn heavy earrings for many years
Full cleft - usually unilateral, caused by direct local trauma like sudden pulling of earrings
There is another way of classifying earlobe repair:
Most earlobe tears are operated upon using local anesthesia and a vasoconstrictor. In some instances, a second procedure may be needed to correct the defect.
For simple splits, surgeons use sutures to repair the earlobe. This operation can last for about an hour or so. For droopy earlobes, the skin lining the tear is excised. Earlobe tears that do not reach the bottom may be treated immediately.
Complications from earlobe repair include keloids, hypo/hyper pigmentation and suture dehiscence in some individuals. Pain, if any is minimal for earlobe repairs. It can be taken care of by over the counter medication.
It is important to note that ear lobe repair is different from otopalsty, or ear correction surgery.