What Is an Aural Hematoma?
A hematoma is swelling created by a broken blood vessel after bleeding
has occurred inside a tissue. Hematomas within the ear flaps (aural hematomas)
occur when head shaking breaks a blood vessel. The ear flap may partially
or completely swell with blood. The swelling may be so large that the opening
of the ear canal is occluded. The extra weight of the ear flap may be uncomfortable
and may lead to a permanent change in the carriage of the ears. This condition
is more common in dogs but can occur in cats as well. The ear flap will feel
fluctuant and fluid-filled, like a water balloon.
What Can We Do to Relieve It?
There are probably as many ways of correcting ear hematomas as there are
veterinarians. The following are some commonly performed procedures.
Aspiration – This procedure involves simply using a syringe to
remove the fluid contents of the hematoma. The problem is that a space is
left behind when the fluid is removed and this space readily refills with
more fluid. It is common for only temporary results to be obtained when
the aspiration method is employed; usually this method is not a good choice.
Pie-crusting Sutures - An incision is made in the ear flap
surgically. The hematoma is drained of fluid and blood clots. To prevent
the hematoma from refilling with fluid, multiple sutures are placed in the
hematoma space either vertically or horizontally, either partly through
or completely through the ear flap, with or without ear cartilage removal.
Sometimes bandages are applied post-operatively, sometimes not. Sutures
are generally left in place for 3 weeks to allow good scarring to take place
so that refilling will not occur.
Teat Cannula Placement: A teat cannula is a small device used in
the treatment of udder inflammation in
cattle. It can be placed in the opening of the teat to allow drainage
of milk or infected discharges. Teat cannulas can also be placed in a dog’s
aural hematoma if the ear flap is large enough to accommodate the device.
The hematoma is drained of fluids and allowed to heal over the next several
weeks. This method is generally successful but does involve the dog tolerating
a gadget inserted in its ear flap for several weeks.
What if There Is a Concurrent Ear Infection?
Usually there is a reason why a dog has been shaking his or her head:
an ear infection. This means that the ear infection must be treated along
with the hematoma. The ear will need cleaning, microscopic examination of
the discharge, and medication. Sometimes ear shaking just happens and there
is no underlying infection but one should be prepared for the expense and
trouble of treating an ear infection along with that of the hematoma.
See more information on ear infections.
What if We Leave it Alone?
If left alone, an ear hematoma will resolve by itself. The fluid will
be re-absorbed back into the body and the ear flap will again be flat. The
problem is that a lot of scarring is associated with this process and the
ear is often not cosmetically appealing afterwards (a cauliflower ear). It
can also take several months to resolve a large hematoma, which may be uncomfortable
for the pet. If the patient is a poor anesthetic risk, it is certainly reasonable
to forgo surgery.
2001 - 2007 by the Veterinary Information Network, Inc. All rights reserved.
This work was originally published by Veterinary Information
Network, Inc. (VIN) and is republished with VIN's permission.
The above information is simply informational. It's intent is
not to replace the advice of a veterinarian nor to assist you in making a
diagnosis of your pet. Please consult with your own veterinarian for confirmation
of any diagnosis. Your pets life may depend on it.