Cauliflower Ear

  • Medical Author:
    John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP

    John P. Cunha, DO, is a U.S. board-certified Emergency Medicine Physician. Dr. Cunha's educational background includes a BS in Biology from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, and a DO from the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences in Kansas City, MO. He completed residency training in Emergency Medicine at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center in Newark, New Jersey.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

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What are the symptoms of cauliflower ear?

Because cauliflower ear is usually due to trauma, the symptoms depend on the severity of the trauma to the ear.

Common symptoms of acute cauliflower ear

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Deformity of the curvature of the ear

Severe symptoms of cauliflower ear

If the damage from the trauma is severe and medical attention should be sought immediately. Once scarring and deformity of the cartilage occurs, there may be no symptoms.

What is the treatment for cauliflower ear?

The goals of treatment are to prevent permanent damage to the cartilage by draining blood from the hematoma, treating any infection, and reducing inflammation in order to re-establish the connection of the skin to the underlying cartilage. Antibiotics are prescribed to prevent infection.

Patients may be referred to an ear, nose, and throat doctor (otolaryngologist) or plastic surgeon to treat this deformity and assure proper healing.

Cauliflower ear repair consists of draining accumulated blood (the hematoma) through an incision in the ear and applying a compressive dressing to sandwich the two sides of the skin against the cartilage.

What is the prognosis for cauliflower ear?

When treated aggressively and promptly, cauliflower ear deformity is unlikely. Any delay in diagnosis leads to more difficulty in managing the problem, increased chances for insufficient blood supply to the ear cartilage, and escalated risk of deformity.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/3/2016

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