Split Earlobe Repair and Post-Op Care

Woman with stretched earlobes

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There are many causes of split earlobes and widened ear piercing holes. Split earlobes are often caused by acute trauma, which may occur if earrings are pulled through the piercing hole, for example if grabbed by a small child or by an enthusiastic dog greeting their owner. Even the repeated pulling of clothing on and off over the head while wearing earrings could inadvertently cause trauma to the ear lobe.

Additionally, regularly wearing heavy earrings can lengthen the piercing hole and eventually cause it to pull through over time. People with thin earlobes are predisposed to this occurring.

Split earlobes can even occur in people who don't have their ears pierced. Sometimes clip-on earrings that are too tight can restrict blood flow to the earlobe, leading to necrosis, or death, of part of the earlobe, causing a split earlobe. There are also congenital causes of split earlobes.

Widened ear piercing holes, sometimes referred to as partially split earlobes, may result from wearing heavy earrings that gradually widen the piercing hole, or from earrings that were pulled while on the ear, but did not go through the ear.

Some ear piercings may be purposefully stretched in order to accommodate large-gauge ear tunnels.

The good news is that this is something that can be reversed. Here's what you need to know about fixing a split or partially split earlobe.

Split Earlobe Reversal and Repair

In order to correct a split earlobe, a widened piercing hole or a stretched ear piercing, a surgical procedure is necessary. Facial plastic surgeons, ear, nose and throat doctors (ENTs) and dermatologic surgeons are among the physicians that can perform these procedures.

First, the area will be cleaned with an antiseptic. In order to numb the area, local anesthesia is injected into or around the area that will be fixed.

In the surgery, a small amount of skin surrounding the split or widened hole is cut out and then restitched back together with a special technique called "W-plasty" which prevents notching as the scar heals and matures.

Depending on the type of stitching material—suture—used, you may have to return for suture removal. Some sutures are absorbed by the body and do not need to be removed. If there are no complications, you will more than likely be able to go home following the procedure.

If you're interested in having your split earlobe, widened piercing hole or stretched ear piercings reversed or repaired, arrange for a consultation with a medical professional who performs this procedure.

Let your physician know if you have a history of large scars or keloids. Talk about what you want your earlobe to look like after, and tell your doctor whether you'd still like to wear earrings following the procedure.

Most insurance policies do not cover this type of procedure, so this repair will probably be an out-of-pocket expense.

Whether you will need to get your ear(s) re-pierced after the procedure depends on whether you want to have them pierced again, as well as how the repair procedure was performed.

Some surgical techniques involve leaving a small tract or hole for earrings after the repair. Let your physician know if you want to wear earrings after the procedure and the proper technique can be chosen.

Risk Factors and Complications

As with any surgical procedure in which the skin is cut, there are several potential complications that can occur, including pain, bleeding, infection, scarring, and depression or notching of the area. You will likely have a small scar after the procedure.

However, if you have a personal or family history of large, bulky scars, your risk for developing that type of scar is increased.

Post-Surgical Care

Your physician will review proper post-procedure wound care. Usually, the wound must be kept dry for 24 to 48 hours after the procedure. Once that period of time has passed, daily wound care may be recommended.

Your physician may recommend applying an ointment to the area as well. Some physicians may recommend silicone gel sheeting or injections if you are at risk for developing large, bulky scars like keloids.

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