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An Introduction to Cauliflower Ear

An Introduction to Cauliflower Ear

Written by Dr. Michael Bard

Cauliflower ear is a scar condition of the cartilage of the ear. It occurs after trauma to the ear when a blood clot forms under the lining of the cartilage, depriving it of its blood supply. The cartilage then becomes scarred and gnarly, looking like a piece of, well, cauliflower. Once it occurs, it is a permanent condition. High risk activities that can cause cauliflower ear are boxing, martial arts, wrestling and rugby.

How to recognize cauliflower ear:
People will initially present with a tense, tender swelling after trauma. The swelling caused by a collecton of blood and is often fluctuant and is throbbing. This is the stage in which cauliflower ear is preventable. If the blood is not drained, scar tissue will replace the blood cavity and will become permanently twisted and curled

Preventing cauliflower ear:
Headgear made specifically for the sport such as a scrum cap, a helmet or a wrestler’s ear guard can help to reduce the trauma to the ear.

The first thing is to recognize the blood collection that will lead to cauliflower ear. If the ear cartilage is swollen, tender and feels like there is a water balloon under the skin, the longer the blood is there, the harder it will be to treat. Prompt medical attention is necessary to prevent the scarring. ENT and plastic surgeons are able to treat cauliflower ear, almost always in the office.
The fluid under the skin needs to be drained by numbing the skin with a local anesthetic and then opening the skin to let the blood drain out. Some sort of a dressing must then be used to prevent the re-accumulation of the blood. This can include a pressure dressing, a wick, a suction drain or a bolster dressing. Antibiotics are usually given because of the risk infection. Once the doctor is confident that the fluid will not re-accumulate, the dressing can be removed.

Make sure to take the antibiotics if prescribed and follow the wound care instructions. Once the doctor clears you to play, go for it! But remember to use your ear protection.

If you’re experiencing symptoms of cauliflower ear, seek treatment immediately from an otolaryngologist at Advanced Specialty Care. We have offices in Danbury, New Milford, Ridgefield & Norwalk, and same-day appointments may be available. Book your appointment now by calling us or requesting online today.

Profile photo of Dr. Michael Bard, MD. Dr. Bard is an ENT who has been practicing at Advanced Specialty Care since 1993.

– Dr. Michael Bard

Michael Bard, MD specializes in Ear, Nose & Throat conditions, Head & Neck Surgery and Thyroid & Parathyroid surgery. Dr. Bard has been practicing at Advanced Specialty Care since 1993 and has received numerous Top Doctor awards and accolades. Dr. Bard sees adult & pediatric patients at Advanced Specialty Care in Danbury & Norwalk, CT.


Advanced Specialty Care Ear, Nose & Throat and Head & Neck Specialists are recognized as some of the region’s top ENT Physicians. Call (203) 830-4700 to schedule an appointment with a Specialist at any of our convenient offices in DanburyNew MilfordNorwalk and Ridgefield, CT.

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