Earlobe Repair and Reconstruction

It is common for people who wear earrings to experience torn earlobes.  Through injury, such as an earring getting caught on clothing, or by the usage of heavy earrings, earlobes tear, leaving behind a split earlobe. Many times the earlobe split is complete while other times the earlobe is torn but does not split completely.  Furthermore, after years of wearing earrings, some women experience stretched earlobes that are not aesthetically pleasing. Fortunately, these types of ear lobe injuries are simple to repair.  Over the years, Dr. Mitchell has repaired numerous earlobes to a restored state.  More interesting ear lobe repair involves the reconstruction of gauged or stretched ear lobes. It has become trendy to wear pierced earrings fashioned with thick, decorative posts and rings. Ear gauging is the gradual stretching of the ear lobe.   There comes a point in the ear gauging process where once the wide earring is removed, the hole left behind will not shrink to an acceptable state.  In these cases, earlobe reconstruction is an excellent option.

1.  What is earlobe repair or reconstruction?

2.  Why is earlobe repair or reconstruction performed?

3.  Who is a candidate for earlobe repair or reconstruction?

4.  Where is earlobe repair performed?

5.  How long does earlobe repair take to complete?

6.  What is the post-operative care after undergoing an earlobe repair?

7.  What are the risks and potential complications of earlobe repair?

8.  Will insurance pay for the earlobe repair?

9.  When can I re-pierce my ears?


1. What is earlobe repair or reconstruction?

Earlobe repair is the surgical correction of a torn earlobe.  Earlobe reconstruction is more applicable to severely augmented earlobes such as those seen with body modification and ear gauging.

2. Why is earlobe repair or reconstruction performed?

Earlobe repair and reconstruction is performed on torn or stretched earlobes.  Injury to an ear piercing is a frequent occurrence.  The resulting split earlobe needs to be mended appropriately.  In addition, a common trend involves stretching the earlobe by sequentially dilating or gauging the earring hole over time.  After a certain gauge size has been accomplished, the hole will not retract or shrink to an acceptable size once the earring is removed.  These earlobes can also be repaired to an aesthetically pleasing appearance.

3. Who is a candidate for earlobe repair or reconstruction?

Any man, woman or child with a torn, damaged or stretched earlobe is a candidate for repair.

4. Where is earlobe repair performed?

Earlobe repair or reconstruction is comfortably performed using local anesthetic in the office-based setting.

5. How long does earlobe repair take to complete?

A simple split earlobe repair takes approximately 15 minutes to complete.  More complex reconstructions resulting from ear gauging can take 30-45 minutes to repair. The sutures are visible but very thin. The incision will be closed precisely.

6. What is the post-operative care after undergoing an earlobe repair?

The post-operative care following earlobe repair is simple wound care.  Topical antibiotic ointment is applied three times per day. Oral antibiotics are typically not indicated. Keeping the ear clean is important.  Hydrogen Peroxide can be used once or twice daily to help clean the earlobe.  Showering is allowed on the first day after the procedure.  Do not rub or scratch the earlobe.  Pat the earlobe dry after it gets wet and then apply a thin film of antibiotic ointment. The sutures will remain in place for 7 days.  Avoid significant sun exposure.  Swimming is not recommended for two weeks.  Usually a bandage is not needed because the blood loss is minimal. 

7. What are the risks and potential complications of earlobe repair?

Earlobe repair is very safe.  Complications are remote.  Unacceptable scarring is possible but very rare.  Re-tearing of the earlobe is possible if the new piercing is placed too soon or is placed directly on the incision line.  It is recommended that the new piercing be placed on either side of the fine scar.  No scar is ever as strong as uninjured, normal tissue.  More complex earlobe reconstruction has higher risks including unacceptable scarring or skin injury from decreased blood supply.

8. Will insurance pay for the earlobe repair?

Insurance companies typically do not pay for torn earlobe repair.  Insurance companies consider earlobe repair to be a cosmetic surgery because the physiological function of the ear is not affected.

9.  When can I re-pierce my ears?

Re-piercing the ear(s) is allowed 6 weeks after the correction.  It is recommended that the new piercing be off set from the fine scar on the earlobe.  No scar is ever as strong as healthy, uninjured tissue.  For earlobe reconstruction following a gauged earlobe repair, significant regauging of the ears is not recommended because the ear is likely to re-tear. 

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