Treatment And Prevention Options For Cauliflower Ear

The cartilage that makes up the human ear is vulnerable to damage via a direct blow or impact, by rubbing, or by a high piercing. If fluid pools in this area, the swelling may cut off blood flow to the cartilage and lead to permanent deformity of the ear or even hearing loss. Proper and immediate first aid applied to damaged tissue is critical, as is follow-up medical care. The sooner individuals act to treat the swelling, the lower the risk of cauliflower ear, an ear deformity due to trauma, becomes. Below are numerous steps to prevent and treat long-term damage caused by cauliflower ear.

Trauma Prevention


No matter the sport, proper headgear is crucial for successful trauma prevention and thus, the prevention of cauliflower ear. Parents supporting children during contact sports need to be aware investing in a properly fitting helmet is crucial, as cauliflower ear can be caused by a poorly fitting helmet rubbing against ear tissue as well.

Make sure any sports participant at risk of ear damage caused by a direct blow, such as baseball or football, has properly fitting headgear that doesn't rub excessively when they remove the helmet. Wrestlers in particular need proper headgear to reduce the risk of damage caused by rubbing or friction.

Immediately Ice The Area

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Once an ear is injured, it will likely swell and may redden as well. This damage should be iced immediately. To properly ice any injury, make sure the area is protected from frostbite by wrapping an ice pack with a light towel or paper towel before placing it over the injury. Ice for fifteen minutes, then allow the injured area a break for ten to fifteen minutes or until feeling comes back to the skin. Continue this process for two hours.

Excessive icing time can lead to frostbite, thus it is crucial to monitor the icing process. Individuals should be aware the cartilage around the outer ear is at great risk for damage from frostbite when they ice the area. By leaving ice on too long, patients may actually do more damage by causing frostbite to the skin and soft tissue around the ear.

Ear Drainage

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It may be necessary to drain the injury to reduce pressure and damage from swelling. Ear drainage for cauliflower ear requires breaking the skin and drawing out fluid with a syringe. The risks of treating cauliflower ear as a do-it-yourself project are extreme. First off, breaking the skin puts individuals at risk of infection. Secondly, damage to ear cartilage is what leads to long-term damage to the outer ear, and if an individual doesn't know what they're doing, they may add an additional puncture to the already damaged cartilage.

Studies indicate damage to the outer ear can ultimately lead to hearing loss. Damage to the outer ear, caused by infection or cartilage scarring, may require later surgeries to reconstruct the ear. Seek professional help to drain the damage of cauliflower ear!

Compression Dressing On The Ear


Once the wound has been iced and drained as necessary, patients will likely need to apply a compression dressing on their ear to prevent additional swelling. A compression dressing over the ear will require patients to wrap their entire head. Anyone suffering an external ear injury will likely already be in quite a bit of pain, so to avoid tangling their hair or causing any more pain, they should start the wrap along the jaw away from the injury. Carefully wrap up over the head and cover the injured ear. Once they've fully encircled the head a few times, they should check for snugness.

Staying as close to the chin as possible will ensure patients have a hard surface to wrap against; obviously, they want to avoid pressure on the larynx or other soft tissue at the throat. If possible, patients should have a physician or other medical professional apply this wrap.


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Cauliflower ear can be improved by cosmetic surgery or otoplasty. This surgery can be done on an outpatient basis, depending on the severity of the damage. In this surgery, an incision is made on the back of the ear to allow the surgeon access to the cartilage scarring and build-up so excess material can be removed. The surgery may take up to three hours, and multiple surgeries may be required if the condition is severe.

Corrective surgery for cauliflower ear may be needed for sports damage or because of damaged caused by infected or poorly placed piercings. Anyone planning on piercing the cartilage of their ears should discuss the risks with their physician.


    HealthPrep Staff