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Split ear lobes repair

Introduction

Split ear lobes can occur as the result of a single episode of an earring being pulled out, or more gradually as heavy earrings stretch the piercing opening over time, eventually causing a split. It is possible to repair the earlobe either before or after the split is complete. This is a relatively straightforward procedure, carried out under local anaesthetic. There is always some scarring following the repair, and the appearance of the earlobe afterwards will depend on the nature and severity of the split, as well as the surgical technique employed for repair.

REPAIR OF SPLIT EARLOBE

  • Type of anaesthetic
    Local anaesthetic
    Length of surgery
    15-30 minutes per side
    Nights in hospital
    0 nights (day case)
    Scars
    Earlobe

  • Recovery
    1 day off work
    Avoid contact sports for 6 weeks
    Follow-up
    5-7 days (dressing clinic)
    6 weeks

My approach

Rather than taking a one-size-fits-all approach, I evaluate each case on an individual basis, and decide which technique is likely to offer the best result in a given case. Often, people feel that their earlobe has become too large, and I will assess if it is possible to reduce the size of the lobe at the time of the procedure.

The surgery

This procedure is carried out under local anaesthetic. In order to close the split, its edges need to be cut away, to provide a fresh edge for stitching. Performing the repair in a straight line will result in a pucker in the contour of the lobe as the scar contracts over time (as all scars do). Therefore a small zig-zag (z-plasty) is introduced to the scar to reduce the chance of this occurring. Where there are more than one piercing hole or split, the technique is modified to the precise configuration of your tissues. Fine sutures are used to close the wounds, and a simple discrete dressing placed over the area. Occasionally, it may be possible to recreate a piercing hole at the time of the repair, but generally, I recommend a minimum of six months before having the ear re-pierced. Clip on earrings may be worn during your recovery period, and I encourage this as the pressure from the earring can assist the process of scar maturation.

The downtime is minimal, however there are a few simple steps that can assist healing. Generally, you will not require more that the day of your procedure off work, however this will obviously depend on the type of work you do! If you work in a dusty or humid environment, I recommend waiting until your stitches are removed before returning to work. If you work with animals or small children, you may also be better taking a little longer off work. Swimming in chlorinated water should be avoided for at least a fortnight after everything has healed, and contact sports should be avoided for at least six weeks.

Consequences and limitations

As with any surgical scar, the scar will initially be pink/ red in colour, settling in the months following surgery.  It should become inconspicuous with time, but some scarring will always exist. Following the general advice for new scars given here should assist in maturation of the scar. The earlobe is a site where keloid scarring may occur, and there is a theoretical risk that it could occur following this procedure, even if no keloid developed in reaction to the original piercing). If this occurs, further treatment(s) may be necessary. While I always aim to create as symmetrical a result as possible, this is not always possible, due to differences in the earlobes to begin with, or in the way in which they heal. Prematurely re-piercing the ear is likely to result in recurrence of the split, and the site for any future piercing must be chosen with care. Continuing to wear heavy earrings following a repair is also likely to result in a recurrence of the problem.