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What is a Pinna Hematoma?

By T. Carrier
Updated Jan 21, 2024
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A pinna hematoma is a blood-filled mass within the outer part of the ear. The condition often results from an ear injury, as can often occur during sports such as wrestling or football or during high-impact accidents. Symptoms typically include swelling, discoloration, itching and pain. While the ailment more frequently appears in veterinary offices, it can also impact humans.

Hematomas in general are thick blisters, masses, or spaces filled with blood. Many classifications exist, with the most severe being the various types of hematomas located around the brain. Hematomas may also appear on various other parts of the body, with most found underneath the skin. A pinna hematoma, while discomforting, is one type that is typically benign, but long-term.

The pinna itself, also known as the auricle, is the portion of the outer ear most would call the flap. Found on many mammals, the appendage helps animals discriminate between different sounds entering the ear. When one sustains an injury to this area, separation of the ear’s connective tissues can occur. This action can burst blood vessels, thus forming the hematoma. One common way to sustain this injury is by a blow to the head, which is why wrestlers or other high-impact sports participants frequently sustain this injury.

Symptoms of a pinna hematoma are easily discernible. A mass within the ear flap is the most obvious indicator, which will often feel like a small water balloon. On occasion, the hematoma will even facilitate new cartilage growth, leading to an irregular lump called cauliflower ear or wrestler’s ear. Other expected symptoms include a bluish swelling around the affected area coupled with possible pain or itchiness.

The development of a pinna hematoma can also impact non-human mammals. Since cats and dogs are most prone to rough play and exploration, these pets are perhaps the most likely to sustain this type of injury. Itchy ear mites or allergies can lead to a hematoma as well, due to irritation brought about by the animal’s scratching. Animals are more likely to scratch or paw at the ear after it is injured, and in the process compound the injury, which is why treating any underlying issues behind the irritation is important. Poorly treated pinna hematomas can leave behind scar tissue or even shrink the pinna.

Pinna hematomas usually resolve themselves with time. Draining the hematoma and obtaining steroid treatments from a medical professional can alleviate symptoms. More severe cases could require surgery. In the case of pinna hematoma in pets, a concerned owner should prevent the affected animal from further aggravating the hematoma through scratching. A visit to the vet’s office may also be in order if symptoms persist.

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