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How To Treat And Prevent Cauliflower Ear

Updated on March 6, 2017
Boxer's ear.
Boxer's ear. | Source
Internal muscles of the ear.
Internal muscles of the ear. | Source

Causes Of Cauliflower Ear

The ear is a very delicate yet robust part of the human anatomy. The cartilage is very flexible to allow for optimum hearing levels but this does sacrifice protection.

Auricular hematoma, otherwise known as Cauliflower Ear, is a common head injury. This form of damage is often found in boxers, MMA fighters, and people who practice other forms of contact sports such as hockey.

An ear hematoma is caused when trauma has caused a blood vessel to rupture and for blood and fluid to collect in the tissue of the ear. If the tissue is not drained soon after the trauma has occurred then the blood will clot and a solid mass will form in the ear which can lead to deafness if it closes off the ear canal. Should the hematoma harden then it's likely the patient will need outer ear surgery to prevent permanent disfiguration.

As you can see in the photo Muscles Of The Auricula there are many small muscle fibers in the ear that need to be supplied with blood to keep them functioning. This means that there are plenty of places for excess blood to seep into during an injury which is why it is so important to get it seen by a medical professional as soon as possible.

Symptoms of Cauliflower Ear

An ear hematoma, or Cauliflower Ear, is usually identified by a large amount of swelling or a large mass that has accumulated in the ear (see picture above). Other symptoms include:

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Deformity of the outer ear
  • Loss of hearing
  • Ringing in the ear (tinnitus)
  • Headaches
  • Blurred vision
  • Facial swelling

Swelling will usually begin shortly after trauma has occurred and should be assessed as soon as possible.

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Surgery to Remove the Hematoma

Ear Hematoma Stats

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Treatment

When you are suffering with a Cauliflower Ear the best course of treatment usually is to drain the blood, fluid and any clots through a small incision or syringe in the outer ear. Once the contents have been removed the area will be packed so that the skin can begin reattaching itself to the cartilage to re-establish blood flow. The alternative method after draining is to compress the ear to prevent it from refilling with blood and once the bleeding has stopped to then allow the ear to heal naturally.

Antibiotics may be given to prevent or clear up infection and patients may be referred to an ear, nose, and throat specialist if necessary. This will help to prevent any deformities and hearing loss if it is an acute injury.

Painkillers may also be necessary as daily tasks such as sleep, wearing head-phones or speaking on the phone will be difficult with the effected ear. Usually over-the-counter medications will be sufficient to treat the discomfort and should only be needed for a few days as the pain will decrease and become manageable.

Complications of Cauliflower Ear

If Cauliflower Ear is left untreated it can cause permanent damage and disfigurement to the outer ear. If left to the stage where a blood clot forms under the skin the connection of the skin to the cartilage is normally sheared. Since the cartilage has no other blood supply except from the skin the blood clot will deprive it of essential nutrients and the ear will be more susceptible to infection as the cartilage dies.

As the cartilage dies it will begin to shrivel and contract on itself forming the classic Cauliflower ear deformity. Once there is cartilage death and scarring it is normally permanent, however, ear surgery is an option to restore some of the ear's natural aesthetics.

This is not a complication of Cauliflower Ear but should be checked out by medical professional: other external and internal head trauma. Because there has been a blow to the head that has caused blood vessels to rupture it is certainly a very good idea to get your head checked out by your doctor just to make sure you haven't got any more ruptured blood vessels in your brain.

Prevention

The obvious prevention is to avoid head injuries altogether but this is not always preventable. In activities that have a high risk for head trauma protective head wear should be worn. You'll often find that UFC, boxers and MMA fighters will wear some form of protective head gear, however, they will still find on occasion this does not always prevent injury.

Head gear does provide a protective layer and cushioning against blunt force trauma, however it does not always protect against friction. Friction is another common cause for Cauliflower Ear as it triggers an inflammatory response from the body causing the outer ear to fill with fluid which is a normal bodily reaction to the situation.

Once again the best prevention is to not get into a situation where you will experience physical damage to your head.

Remember

This HubPage is for informational purposes only had should not replace the attention of a medical professional.

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