Women and men wear ear jewelry to enhance their appearance. Rings, posts, and other objects have adorned ears since ancient times. Various parts are pierced to better hold these items in place. Unfortunately significant weight or trauma can pull through tissue. A tear in the lobe or margin leaves a notch in the otherwise smooth continuous edge. This defect is usually very visible and hard to cover with hair or clothing.
What is actually torn?
The soft ear lobe has skin and fat. Other parts of the ear have cartilage adding structural strength. Since the tissue over the cartilage is thin, contour irregularities of the cartilage are easily seen. Reestablishing the delicate shape of the underlying cartilage adds complexity to a reconstruction.
Methods of reconstruction
Most ear holes gradually enlarge over time. The final tear is usually just through a tiny piece of tissue at the bottom of the lobe. If only the bottom is actually torn, immediate repair will not take care of the skin covered slot. However if the tear starts from a tiny pierced hole, immediate repair is an option. Otherwise reconstruction is delayed after the wound has healed and tissues are not inflamed.
Depending on the deformity, reconstruction can take different forms. In all methods, the skin lining the slot is removed creating a raw edge to rebuild. Lost tissue complicates matters and reconstruction centers around reestablishing normal proportions in a somewhat smaller ear.
You will need to wash your wound with soap and water three (3) times a day. A thin layer of antibiotic ointment is the only dressing in most cases. You may wash your hair but will have to be careful with blow dryers until sensation returns. (You could burn yourself without knowing it if you were still numb.) Expect a little drainage from the wound. Be careful of your good bed linens with the drainage and ointment. I remove sutures in about seven (7) days.
When can I wear earrings after surgery?
If Dr. Pippin has rebuilt the ear with a hole for jewelry, you will have a temporary “ring” at the end of surgery. This stitch comes out in about two weeks. The new hole is still quite weak and you should hold off trying small posts for at least six weeks after surgery. Heavier jewelry is not recommended, but if you must, wait at least two months after surgery. Clip on earrings may be worn six weeks after surgery. All the above time periods may need to be delayed if you still have sensitivity at the surgical site.
If I chose the layered closure or ``Z-plasty`` flap can I get my ears pierced?
If your ear has been closed and you want a new hole pierced, wait six months after
surgery. The scar should be soft before you try this.