THIRD QUARTER 2007, VOLUME 21, NUMBER 4

Fear not, here are tips for the care and repair of your ears

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Ask the Surgeon / Health Tip / What’s New

Fear not, here are tips for the care and repair of your ears

Whether your earlobe is torn from a baby’s sharp tug or from extended time wearing fashionable, yet too heavy, dangling earrings-your facial plastic surgeon can correct your earlobe with a simple procedure.

Care of the tear
What should you do the moment the earlobe tears? Put immediate pressure on the earlobe until the bleeding has subsided. Apply antibacterial ointment and call your physician. You may benefit from immediate repair if the ear hole is small and the skin tear is raw. Your facial plastic surgeon can bring the raw edges together and keep it in place with sutures.

In cases where the ear hole is rather large and the tear is small, your physician may delay repair until the wound has healed. After a local (numbing) anesthesia is applied, the skin on the split is removed and sutured back together. Your physician may create a flap to rebuild and reshape the lobe if there is damage that is more extensive. Closure is often performed using a zigzag technique to reinforce the area, especially if you are considering re-piercing.

Most physicians will recommend waiting at least six weeks to ensure that the earlobe has completely healed. It is highly recommended that you ask your physician to re-pierce the ear or request a referral. The new ear hole must be located in a new site, not in an area previously weakened by heavy or dangling earrings.

Most patients will resume their normal daily activities immediately following surgery with little or no interruption. Your physician will give you specific post-operative instructions. This may include keeping the sutures dry for several days, avoiding tight fitting garments that are removed over the head, and limiting the amount of bending over (keep head elevated). There may be mild discomfort that can be managed with Tylenol.

Avoiding Infection
Whether you have newly pierced ears, newly repaired lobes, or have had pierced ears for 20 years with no problems, everyone is susceptible to infection and tears. To avoid infection, clean the earlobes with rubbing alcohol. Keep your earrings clean by swabbing the posts with rubbing alcohol. Be vigilant for possible allergic reactions. Most commonly, this occurs with earrings that contain nickel. Stick with sterling silver, hypoallergenic stainless-steel posts, or 14- karat (or higher) gold posts. If the earlobe becomes red, hot to the touch, or you see pus, contact your physician-these are signs of infection.

The second problem is tearing your earlobe. Avoid extremely heavy earrings or wearing any type of dangle earrings for an extended period. If you use the telephone frequently all day at work, remove your earrings to minimize tension on the hole. Even when wearing light-weight hoops, be mindful that they can get caught on combs, brushes, clothing, etc. And, if you are going to be around small children, it is easiest to remove the temptation.

Take care of your earlobes. If you have concerns about their appearance and want to discuss cosmetic or reconstructive options, contact your facial plastic surgeon for an appointment.