Everything You Need To Know About Earlobe Repair

in Avon, Connecticut

Earring use resulting in torn earlobes is a very common problem. Earrings can tear through the earlobe slowly and painlessly over time. It usually starts out with the earring hole becoming larger and stretched out. People first notice this hole enlargement when their earring starts to droop downward. To compensate for the large earring hole, people often use a larger earring back to keep the earring pointing forward. Overtime the hole becomes larger and larger until there is only a small bridge of earlobe tissue left. Then one day, the earring just tears through the small bridge of tissue and the earlobe is torn. This process can be caused by several things: sleeping in your earrings, holding a phone to one’s ear, or just having the earring get caught in your hair or hairbrush. People with very thin, small earlobes are more prone to torn earlobes. Much less commonly, earrings are torn from the earlobe traumatically and rapidly (usually from a small child pulling on an earring) causing pain and bleeding. Interestingly, most people with torn earlobes don’t even realize that their earlobes can be repaired and REPIERCED. Patients are ecstatic when they can wear their earrings again.

Treatment Options for Torn Earlobes or Elongated Earring Holes

Unfortunately, when an earlobe is torn or if the hole is large, the treatment options are to do nothing at all or to surgically repair the torn earlobe. There are no non-surgical treatment options. I have seen patients try to use scotch tape or crazy glue to hold the torn edges together, however this is not recommended due to secondary skin irritation from the adhesives.

Medical Insurance Coverage

Torn earlobe repair is only covered under medical insurance when the earlobe is torn traumatically. When an earlobe is torn acutely, there will be two actively bleeding surfaces. In this situation, the two bleeding surfaces are sutured together in an emergency department. If the edges of the tear are healed over, then the repair is not covered by medical insurance and the patient is financial responsible. Repiercing of the earlobe is never covered by medical insurance.

Split or Torn Earlobe Consultation

The first step in repairing a torn earlobe is a consult. During this consult Dr. Stanislaw will listen to your concerns and expectations and he will examine your earlobe or earlobes. Dr. Stanislaw will evaluate the size, shape, location, and the number of tears or stretched-out holes that are present in the earlobe or earlobes. He will also examine the size and thickness of your earlobes and evaluate your earlobe symmetry. Earlobes are often asymmetric in their size, shape, and location, and this asymmetry can affect the location of future earlobe repiercings.  It is very common for patients to have both earlobes affected. Any combination of tears or stretched out holes can be present in one or both earlobes.

If both earlobes are affected, both earlobes can be repaired at the same time. The decision to repair both earlobes or just one earlobe at a time is up to the patient.

Once Dr. Stanislaw and the patient have come up with a plan for the repair, a surgical quote will be given to the patient. The surgical quote includes the procedure and all related postoperative visits. Most patients would like to have their earlobe re-pierced after the repair and this can be added into the surgical quote. The repair is not performed at the time of the consultation, but is scheduled for a later date.

The day of the repair, the patient can drive themself to and from the appointment. There is no sedation necessary for this procedure. The procedure is performed using a small injection of numbing medication into the earlobe. The procedure is always well tolerated and takes anywhere from 45 minutes to 2 hours depending on the complexity of the repair.

Split or Torn Earlobe Repair

The procedure starts with you laying down on a procedure table. The torn earlobe(s) are marked out with a surgical marking pen.  The earlobe is then injected with numbing medication (lidocaine) using a very small needle. There will be a small pinch and a small burn, and then your earlobe will be totally numb. Both healed edges of the torn earlobe are then excised and then sewn together with very tiny blue sutures. The sutures will be on the front and the back of the earlobe. If the other earlobe requires repair, the same procedure is followed on the opposite ear. The incisions are then coated with an ointment and you are done. The numbing medication will wear off in about 1.5 hours. Your earlobes will be swollen from the numbing medication and this swelling will take a few days to resolve.

Postoperative Care for Torn Earlobe Repair

You will be required to apply an ointment to the sutures on the front and back of the earlobe three times per day. You will clean any scabs or crusts off the sutures with hydrogen peroxide before reapplying the ointment. You can shower and wash your hair the next day. Soapy water can run over the sutures without a problem, but you cannot submerge the earlobes in water like in a bathtub, pool, or hot tub. You will sleep with your head elevated above the level of your heart and you will limit your bending, lifting, and straining for one week. There is very little if any discomfort with this procedure and patients will use Tylenol or Motrin if needed. You will need to return to the office in about one week to have the sutures removed. Suture removal does not hurt and does not require any more injections of numbing medication. It takes about 20 minutes to remove the sutures. You can not pull on your earlobes for a month. No tight turtlenecks, no motorcycle helmets, nothing that might open up the incision. Once the sutures are removed, you can return to swimming if desired.

Earlobe Repiercing after Earlobe Repair

Earlobe repiercing is usually performed two months after the repair to allow the incisions time to heal. When healed, the scars that remain are barely perceptible; even on very close inspection. The repiercing takes about 30 minutes to perform in the office and you can drive yourself to and from the appointment. While sitting in an examination chair, Dr. Stanislaw will use a surgical marking pen to mark out where the new earring holes will be located. It is very important to note, that the earlobes can not be repierced in the same location as the incision. The healed incision will always be inherently weaker than the normal earlobe skin. If the ear was repierced in the old incision line, the earring would tear through again. Therefore, the new earring hole will be either in front of or behind the old location. Dr. Stanislaw will take into consideration the location of the opposite earlobe’s earring hole location, the size, shape and asymmetry of the earlobes, and he will repierce the earlobe in as symmetric a location as possible. Prior to repiercing, he will mark out the new location with a surgical marking pen and allow you to look at the new location with a mirror for your approval. Once you approve of the new location, a small amount of numbing medication is injected into the earlobe and the ear is repierced with stainless steel earrings without nickel. If a patient wants to use their own earrings for the repiercing, they need to be nickel free and have a smooth round ball on the end about the size of a BB. Large earrings and hoops can not be used. Following the repiercing, you will be allowed to look at the earlobes with a mirror to approve the location. If the earring is not in the right spot, it can be relocated at that time.

Care of your earlobe after your Repiercing

You must leave the earring in the new hole for one month. During this time, we ask people to gently clean around the earring once a day with hydrogen peroxide (front and back) and to give the earring a gentle turn. You can shower with the earring in place, but we discourage submerging the earlobe in water (ie swimming, bathtub) for the first month. After one month, you can remove the earring and replace it immediately with another earring. You will leave this earring in for two more weeks. After that time, you can remove your earring at bedtime and immediately replace it in the morning. During the first 6 weeks it will be necessary for you to sleep in your earrings to prevent the hole from closing up. However, after 6 weeks we do not recommend sleeping with your earrings in, since this will cause the hole to widen and tear again.

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