Cauliflower Ear: Causes, Symptoms and Treatments

Cauliflower Ear

Any type of blunt force trauma to the ear may lead to a condition known as cauliflower ear.

Stefan Holm /

Any type of blunt force trauma to the ear may lead to a condition known as cauliflower ear.

It occurs when a collection of blood or fluid separates the skin and cartilage in the outer-ear. If this damage is not addressed expeditiously, then the ear can become deformed and resemble a cauliflower.

That being said, there a number of ways that patients can reduce the likelihood of developing cauliflower ear after an injury or accident.

Keep reading to learn all about cauliflower ear, and its causes, symptoms, and treatment. 

Cauliflower Ear – What Causes It?

Cauliflower ear can be the result of any trauma that’s forceful enough to disrupt blood vessels and cause blood to pool between skin and cartilage in the outer-ear.

It’s often seen in individuals that participate in contact sports such as MMA (Mixed Martial Arts), wrestling or those that have been in an accident.

What Are the Symptoms of Cauliflower Ear?

Following any type of injury to the ear, patients should take care to look for swelling, bruising, and other signs of inflammation.

If the damage is significant enough to cause blood or fluid to pool between the skin and cartilage, an auricular hematoma can develop and present with the following symptoms:

Redness, warmth, shriveling of outer ear, pale color of outer ear, or a change in ear curvature.

Ideally, patients should seek medical attention within 6 hours of trauma, to avoid complications. If left untreated, cauliflower ear can lead to more serious issues such as:

Hearing loss, ringing ears (tinnitus), headaches/migraines, vision changes, severe bleeding, facial swelling and bruising, death of healthy cartilage, and scarring.

What Are the Treatment Options for Cauliflower Ear?

Cauliflower ear can be treated in a variety of ways depending on the severity of damage.

Reduce swelling

Patients should apply ice to the affected ear at 15-20 minute intervals. This helps to reduce swelling and inflammation until damage can be assessed in the ER.

Undergo a head and neck exam

Once patients are evaluated in the ER, the inner structures and function of the ear will be examined using an otoscope. It’s important to confirm that the ear drum is intact and has not been harmed.

Additionally, patients will undergo a head and neck exam to make sure that damage is limited to the ear and that the person has not sustained an intracranial injury.

Drain the auricular hematoma

When it comes to cauliflower ear, necrosis of ear cartilage is a significant concern. In order to avoid this type of irreversible damage, the blood pooling in the ear must be drained.

This can be accomplished through aspiration or surgical draining.

Prevent infection with antibiotics

Most individuals will be prescribed antibiotics as a proactive measure against infection. Patients should follow the treating physician’s instructions and complete the full course of medication during recovery.

Have a surgical correction

Surgery can be performed to can correct deformity, improve appearance, and restore function.

If you are seeking treatment for cauliflower ear, please a trusted medical practice today to schedule a comprehensive consultation.

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