One of the most common cosmetic deformities of an ear is a split, stretched, or torn earlobe. This could be due to wearing heavy earrings, accidents that stretch the ear, or trauma. Whatever the reason may be, it can certainly be a cause of distress. It is not uncommon for patients in Hartford, New Haven, Norwalk, Greenwich, and Avon to seek the expertise of plastic surgeons for this ear deformity so that they may continue to wear earrings or for other cosmetic reasons. In this case, it’s best to seek out a board-certified plastic surgeon.
As we get older our ears continue to grow. This enlargement of the earlobes affects both men and women equally. Enlarged earlobes can start to affect patients in their forties and fifties and this can make their entire face appear older. Sometimes the earlobes can grow so large that they can become a very serious cosmetic concern. It can be so concerning that people won’t allow pictures to be taken of themselves or they will grow their hair long just to cover their ears. When patients have large earlobes, they don’t realize that this affects many people and that there is a very simple surgical procedure to correct an enlarged ear lobe.
Surgical reduction is the only treatment option for enlarged earlobes. There are no medical treatments that make earlobes smaller, only cosmetic procedures. The split earlobe repair surgery takes about 1.5 to 2 hours and is an in-office procedure. There is no sedation and the ear lobe repair procedure is performed using local anesthesia which is injected using a very small needle into each earlobe. Because there is no sedation you can expect to drive yourself to and from the appointment.
Prior to the start of the procedure, your earlobes are measured. Usually, the earlobes are asymmetric in size, shape, and location. Once both earlobes are measured, the amount of earlobe tissue to be removed is determined. A very small amount of local anesthesia is injected into the first earlobe using a small needle. This will cause a small pinch and a small burn, and then the earlobe will be completely numb for the entirety of the earlobe repair surgery.
The excess ear lobe tissue is then excised and the incisions are closed using very fine sutures. There will be sutures on the front and back of the earlobe and the design of the stitching will be in the shape of a “T”. Once one ear is completed, attention will turn to the opposite ear to perform an identical procedure. Different amounts of tissue may be excised from the two earlobes to make asymmetric earlobes more symmetric.
Once both earlobes are completed, ointment will be applied to the suture wound, front and back. You will be able to see your earlobes immediately at the end of the procedure since there are no dressings or bandages needed. The earlobes will be swollen at this time due to the numbing medication.
Following the split earlobe repair procedure, your earlobes will be numb for approximately 2 hours. Once the numbing medication wears off there may be minor bleeding or a mild burning sensation in the earlobes that is easily treated with Tylenol or Motrin. This sensation usually resolves within 24 hours. You will need to apply ointment to the incision site three times per day (front and back of the ear lobe). Prior to applying any ointment, you will clean off any scabs or crusting using hydrogen peroxide. Once, the sutures are clean, then you can re-apply the ointment.
You can shower and let soapy water run over your earlobes the next day. However, you cannot submerge your ears in water like in a bathtub, pool, or hot tub until the sutures are removed. You must sleep with your head above the level of your heart for one week to minimize swelling. No bending, lifting, or straining for one week, again to minimize swelling. In seven to ten days, you will return to the office for suture removal. There is no pain or discomfort associated with the suture removal and it takes about 20 minutes. After this point, you may resume your normal activities.
Sometimes when performing an earlobe reduction, it is necessary to remove the tissue where the ears were pierced. Otherwise, the earlobe repair runs the risk of repositioning the piercing hole to an undesirable location. In these situations, if the patient so desires, earlobes can be re-pierced at several weeks following the earlobe repair. After eight weeks the incisions will have fully healed and they will be barely noticeable.
Again, the earlobes will be measured and a surgical marking pen will be used to mark out the new location of the earrings. The new piercing sites cannot be in the same location as the incisions, because these incision lines will always be inherently weaker than normal skin. There may also be scar tissue to consider. The patient is allowed to see the marked-out locations for the new piercings and if the patient approves, then a very small amount of numbing medication is injected into each earlobe. The earlobes are then re-pierced using nickel-free piercing earrings and the patient is again allowed to approve the new locations. The piercings can be relocated at this time if the patient so desires. If the patient wishes to use their own earrings for the piercings, the earrings need to be smooth, small “BB” sized earrings that are nickel-free.
If you have an enlarged earring hole or if you have a torn or split earlobe, you are an ideal candidate for earlobe repair.
What is the reconstruction procedure?
The earlobe reconstruction procedure is performed under local anesthesia and the procedure takes about an hour. The type of earlobe repair depends on the degree of the tear. Small flaps may be used for redesigning the earlobe in cases where there is a very large tear or if the earlobes are distorted by earlobe gauges. The healed edges of the enlarged hole or split are removed, and the fresh edges are sutured together. Dr. Stanislaw uses very small stitches that are removed after seven days.
There is minimal recovery after torn earlobe repair and any discomfort can be treated with Tylenol. There is no recovery time period and most patients return to work immediately post-surgery.
When can I re-pierce my earlobes?
Dr. Stanislaw can re-pierce the earlobes six weeks after the earlobe reconstruction. At the time of the re-piercing, patients will bring in a pair of small earrings with posts that are made of good quality stainless steel or gold. The posts can not contain any nickel. These earrings are left in place for one month. After one month, the earrings can be removed and changed.
With minimal scarring and no downtime, earlobe reconstruction is the perfect procedure for those who have split or torn earlobes.
The dream of serving in the military is being dashed for many young people by two small problems: stretched earlobes. All branches of service prohibit anyone with popular earlobe gauges or plug piercings to enlist. Facial plastic surgeon Dr. Paul Stanislaw is on a mission to educate military hopefuls about the quick one-day procedure that can repair the large openings and restore the ear’s appearance. He is offering a ten percent discount to all military and law enforcement for earlobe reconstruction procedures, not just on Veterans’ Day, but year-round to ensure anyone who wishes to serve will not be disqualified. He was on to talk with Brad and Paul about it!