Auricular Haematoma

Auricular haematoma is a common injury sustained by participants in contact sports, especially those with repeated direct facial contact such as wrestling, boxing or martial arts. It involves bleeding from the great auricular artery of the ear due to the anterior auricular perichondrium pulling away from the cartilage, usually tearing blood vessels and causing a haematoma between skin and cartilage on the inner side of the ear. Possible damage from the injury is often known as cauliflower ear due to the swollen appearance that can result from an auricular haematoma that has become infected.

Symptoms of Auricular Haematoma

Notable inflammation on the ear that arises within a week after the suspected cause of the injury. Direct trauma to the ear regularly precedes this swelling. The inflammation on the ear may have a bluish tint and blood can sometimes be present. An appearance of 'cauliflower ear' may begin to develop as a result, with new and malformed cartilage forming on the ear and swelling greatly.

Causes of Auricular Haematoma

The primary cause is a punch or other blow directly to the ear area, as encountered in boxing, wrestling and martial arts. Headgear can protect against such traumas, but many variations of these sports or individual instructors do not permit protective headgear to be worn at all times, thus the risk of the injury is heightened. A rare and hard blow from a bat, stick or sporting projectile can also lead to the condition. In some cases an auricular haematoma appears to arise spontaneously without a definitive cause, though this is thought to be a rarer occurrence.

Medical Treatment for Auricular Haematoma

It is crucial to see a doctor as soon as possible after the injury is sustained; this maximises the chances of successful treatment and healing. In general the injury should not go unexamined for more than seven days, as this can increase the condition's severity or the likelihood of complications. The doctor will recommend an appropriate procedure, which mostly involves draining the affected area with a needle and subsequent compression of the ear. The ear will be dressed to ensure better recovery and less chance of reoccurrence. It might also be necessary to fix damaged tissues using another method.

If the ear has taken on the swollen appearance of 'cauliflower ear,' you will want to talk to your doctor about your options and the likelihood of recovery. Hearing loss can occur and unfortunately this can often be impossible to fully reverse. There are some cosmetic procedures available that can help to improve the look of the ear.

Next Stages

After the procedure to drain the auricular haematoma, the doctor will need to examine your ear every day for a number of days. This acts to minimise the chances of an instant repeat of the injury. Antibiotics are often prescribed, whereas pain medications (especially aspirin and anti-inflammatory medications) should be avoided for a while as they may provoke more bleeding. From this point your injury may be healed, though in some instances the haematoma arises again, the ear is struck by infection, or the previously discussed cauliflower ear develops. In these cases the doctor will discuss more treatment with you.

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