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What is an outer ear injury?

Some outer ear injuries are minor scratches, cuts, or bruises that can be treated at home and do not need medical intervention. But sometimes, trauma can severely affect the external, visible part of the ear, also known as the auricle or pinna. While these injuries usually harm the internal ear or impact hearing, they are visible, sometimes painful, and commonly require treatment from a healthcare provider.

There are three common types of outer ear injuries:

  • Cauliflower ear: Cauliflower ear result from two types of injuries: A hematoma, which is a buildup of blood and fluid beneath the skin covering the ear cartilage, or a seroma — a buildup of fluid in ear cartilage. These injuries create bumps on the ear that resemble cauliflower.
  • Split earlobe: An earlobe can split gradually from unintentional tugging of an earring or the intentional dilation of the earlobe for “spacers.”
  • Keloids: When skin is injured, excess scar tissue can create a keloid, a raised shiny area commonly found on the earlobe.

Outer Ear Injury | Symptoms & Causes

What are the symptoms of an outer ear injury?

Symptoms of an outer ear injury can vary, but if your child is experiencing pain, severe swelling, bleeding, or discomfort, it is best to have them assessed by a care provider. Also, if you are concerned about the appearance of your child’s ear after an injury or trauma, it is best to contact your child’s care provider.

What causes an outer ear injury?

Children who play high-contact sports are at higher risk of outer ear injuries, but sudden or gradual trauma can also damage the outer ear.

Outer Ear Injury | Diagnosis & Treatments

How is an outer ear injury treated?

For many outer ear injuries your child might be treated without surgery, through compression dressings or corticosteroid injections to improve the ear’s appearance in the case of keloids. More severe cases of cauliflower ear and keloids may require surgical intervention to achieve a greater functional and cosmetic result. Split or stretched earlobes will not heal on their own and will require surgery to correct.

How we care for outer ear injuries

The team at the Department of Plastic and Oral Surgery at Boston Children’s Hospital understands the importance of getting your child back to sports and activities. Our specialized, experienced team works with you and your child to determine which treatment is best, so we work quickly to treat their outer ear injuries and lead them to recovery.

Outer Ear Injury | Programs & Services