Torn Earlobe and DIY stitch repair

Sorry for not posting more yesterday, but I had my head slammed in a car door (don’t ask!) and got a concussion and didn’t feel like writing. Let me start off today with a pictorial story from “a young lady from Chicago-land” and her earlobe tearing misadventures in the Ukraine involving stitching… I’m actually not convinced this needed to be stitched (I think it would have healed on its own, personally), but I’m not about to look a gift horse in the mouth!

This story is in her own words — continue reading to see what happened.

“Adventures in doing laundry: As I hopped down from the chair I was standing on to hang laundry, my rounded horse-shoe piercing (it had one smallish ball and one biggish ball on it) got caught on the wire clothes-line on my Ukrainian balcony. My ear was tearing as the piercing was actually bending (skin is strong!) and then the back ball (luckily, the smaller ball!) exploded through my ear and out came the piercing. The tear was only in the front of the lobe. The ball took a tiny ring of flesh with it, but otherwise the back was undamaged.”

Inset: “What the ring looked like before it bent on the wire, and after… I can’t believe how strong human flesh is! Oh, and don’t mind the little bit of my flesh.”

“Ew, a bit of grit in there!”

“Yeah, um, Ukranian hospitals? No thanks. I’d heard nothing but horror stories all week from my students, and then this. I went with what my dad taught me: Superglue fixes everything. The arrow indicates the end of the tear. It looks good, but actually, I screwed up by getting glue into the tear too, so, eventually, it would all come out in a plug and I’d be back to square one. The piercing is tilted up, btw, to maintain the hole without possibly getting pulled on and opening the tear again. Smart, huh?

“Sure enough, three days later, the superglue all came out and off, leaving the cut wide open again. Nope, still, not going to a Ukrainian hospital. You know, the one time I was in one, an angry nurse chastised me for my piercings and told me that because I had piercings, I would have deformed children! Time for self-done stitches.”

“I actually didn’t mean to make the stitch so wide like that. In retrospect, I think it was good though, because the first and middle stitch was really secure and then the top and bottom stitches didn’t go through as much flesh.”

“Three stitches (the top and the bottom weren’t as deep as the middle). It looks irritated but it’s just camera contrast — it looked great. My roommates were impressed.”

Left: “Immediately after removing the stitches (left them in for six days)” and Right: “Three days after removing the stitches. Yay! I’m a doctor now. It’s not the first time I’ve given myself stitches in fact…”

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About Shannon Larratt

Shannon Larratt is the founder of BME (1994) and its former editor and publisher. After a four year hiatus between 2008 and 2012, Shannon is back adding his commentary to ModBlog. It should be noted that any comments in these entries are the opinion of Shannon Larratt and may or may not be shared by LLC or the other staff or members of BME. Entry text Copyright © Shannon Larratt. Reproduced under license by LLC. Pictures may be copyright to their respective owners. You can also find Shannon at Zentastic or on Facebook.

56 thoughts on “Torn Earlobe and DIY stitch repair

  1. “I’m not about to look a gift horse in the mouth”
    Never knew that was an expression in English as well. We say the exact same thing in Dutch (een gegeven paard niet in de bek kijken”.

    Impressive result!
    If i ever need stitches, i’ll let her do mine too.

  2. impressive work!

    #3 – we use the same expression in swedish as well (man skådar inte given häst i munnen)

  3. very impressive, but not all ukranian hospitals are horrible backwards places….Foretunately for ukraine

  4. Wow, she did a really nice job! As for the superglue, my mother once cut her hand really badly while doing dishes and hitting a knife, well the doctors superglued bandaids to her hand so they would hold the cut together instead of stitches I guess….

  5. #3,4,7 – To complete the collection: We use the same expression here in germany (Einem geschenkten Gaul schaut man nicht ins Maul)

    Appenently superglue does not fix everything. I wonder if anybody had success with this method ;)

  6. Wow, that is impressive! I applied stick-on butterfly stitches to my thumb once when I sliced it really badly, but I was too chicken to actually sew it together. It healed fine anyway – the stick-on bandaid things held it together quite well.

  7. it’s really impressive! i guess going to an ukrainian hospital would have left you with a bigger scar.. or maybe you’d have been lucky? who knows.
    #3,4,7 – we have the same in Polish (Darowanemu koniowi nie zagląda się w zęby), :P

  8. #3,4,7 – the same in Slovenia (Podarjenemu konju se ne gleda v zobe…) “nekaj takega”

  9. Neat stitches…I know I couldn’t do it, with weird angles n all :)
    rofl @ everyone talking about the expression, almost more then about the ear. If 3 hadn’t posted it though, I would have :P

  10. #3, 4, 7, 10, 12, 13 and 15:
    We have it in Portuguese too!! “A cavalo dado não se olha o dente”

  11. We also have it in French : “A cheval donné, on ne regarde pas les dents”…Funny to see where a post about DIY stitches can lead.

  12. ##3, 4, 7, 10, 12, 13, 15 and 18:
    In french, it is:
    ­­”À cheval donné, on ne regarde pas la bride”.


  13. Haha, this post is so bookmarked for all the language lessons. And nice DIY :D

  14. very impressive. i know who i’m going to if i ever need stiches. :)

    a story with a happy ending AND some language lessons, what more can you ask for?

  15. cool beans. super glue definatly works. i cut my hand open and got 8 stitches in my palm. the stitches fell out before it was fully closed and i wanted to ride my bike. if yo do get it IN in the wound it will pop off. stings like a bitch too.

  16. Wow…quite the incident…seems like she fixed it up just fine though… I love the culmination of phrases though, haha.

    Where I’m from, I guess it would be something to the effect of “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth, eh? …Ya’ Hozer”

  17. lol. i should post that saying in yiddish and hebrew. . .but i think the over-abundance of language lessons is rather enough. besides i like the DIY stitch up! cool story!

  18. Wow. awesome. I couldn’t do it to myself, which I suppose is weird all things considered. But I am impressed.
    I once had my head slammed by a car door.. by my (at the time 3, now 8) year old… got staples for it. sucked.

  19. On superglue… I work in as a machinist and have gotten some nasty cuts. In between my thumb and index finger I had a raw peice of copper, about 3 feet long, slide through my hand. It was easily a wound for the hospital. it was about a 1/4″ deep and I sealed it with superglue. It healed perfectly. my hands are littered with scars… I wanted to give myself stitches but my boss wouldnt let me. maybe next time… I always find it fun, nursing my wounds. weeee

  20. from wiki:

    The use of cyanoacrylate glues in medicine was considered fairly early on. Eastman Kodak and Ethicon began studying whether the glues could be used to hold human tissue together after surgery. In 1964, Eastman submitted an application to use cyanoacrylate glues to seal wounds to the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Soon afterward Dr. Harry Coover’s glue did find use in Vietnam—reportedly in 1966, cyanoacrylates were tested on-site by a specially trained surgical team, with impressive results. In an interview with Dr. Coover by the Kingsport Times-News, Coover said that the compound demonstrated an excellent capacity to stop bleeding, and during the Vietnam War, he developed disposable cyanoacrylate sprays for use in the battlefield.
    “ If somebody had a chest wound or open wound that was bleeding, the biggest problem they had was stopping the bleeding so they could get the patient back to the hospital. And the consequence was—many of them bled to death. So the medics used the spray, stopped the bleeding, and were able to get the wounded back to the base hospital. And many, many lives were saved. ”

    —Dr. Harry Coover

    The original Eastman formula was not FDA approved for medical use, however, because of a tendency to cause skin irritation and to generate heat. In 1998 the FDA approved 2-octyl cyanoacrylate for use in closing wounds and surgical incisions. Closure Medical has developed medical cyanoacrylates such as Dermabond, Soothe-N-Seal and Band-Aid Liquid Adhesive Bandage.

  21. Nice job with the stitches! Ive used superglue a couple of times on cuts (4 hours in A&E or DIY, no contest realy). Ive found the best way is to hold the wound together and use a coctail stick to spread the glue on top going in the same direction as the cut.

  22. Impressive, nice one.

    Also, I think I remember being told that super glue was used in WWII to close up wounds or something like that.

  23. I wonder if the superglue stung when she applied it. It just seems like something I’d want to keep an open wound away from.

  24. I’ve used superglue for smaller cuts on my hands before, my mom used to use it my brothers and I when we had small cuts as kids. When a family friend tore some skin off the bottom of his foot in our pool (not sure how that happened :/ ), she covered the patch of missing skin with superglue. No problems.

    @lamexcore: It never stung any more than placing a band-aid over the cut.

  25. # 5, super glue works fine, if you don’t get it into the cut or tear..hell sometimes it even works if you get it into the cut, depending on the severity of it. I’ve done it several times, to help seal the edges so it won’t expand or reopen.

  26. superglue was used in at least two american wars, but it proved to be carcinogenic, i believe, on top of the mild irritation. it did save many lives, and if you use it on small lacerations instead of deep flesh wounds you should be fine. the body can process a surprising amount of toxin.

    nowadays it is a lot weaker (safer) than it was back then; they changed the formula a couple of times. unfortunately, this means it doesn’t bond as well and won’t stick your arm back on.


  27. @11 My first reaction was that one of those butterfly bandaids would have been useful.
    That said, I’m all about DIY wound repair for injuries on this level. Bravo on the nice stiches. I’ve managed to avoid needing them, though I had one finger slice that I was later told could’ve used a couple. I used to use electrical tape to cover up my cuts while doing car repair, but I later learned that the adhesive isn’t really something you should expose open wounds to. I haven’t had the opportunity to try out superglue yet. My cuts tend to heal best using the LITFA method.

  28. Something I want to point out is that this is why people should wear 14g jewelry or larger in their ears. Thats why the CB bent like that before tearing the flesh. It had to be pulled in REALLY hard to do that kind of damage.

    People with non stretched ear piercings who wear “normal” earings usually wear such tiny gauge stuff. Like a freaking 20g. My mom does and I tell her she should stretch to 14g to prevent from tearing her lobes. But years of wearing dangly “cheese cutter” earings made the holes in her ears quite low. And one of the holes is a lot lower than the other because it got yanked and torn. They dont even look like small holes anymore. They look like long slits. Its too bad because I see so many people with the same problem. earings at least 14g would solve that problem.

  29. Very impressive.
    Once my mum superglued a gash together when I was a kid.
    Sure that’s what they used in wars to quickly suture a wound.

    Great needle work tho.

  30. daaaamn dont think i could stitch myself! thats quite impressive, especially since it was on the ear, which wouldnt be the easiest area to do something like that to!

  31. wow.. impressive…

    and um… i wish you the best with your concussion, shannon.

    i had a mild one from a wreck here a while back.. i hope you feel better!

  32. I <3 people’s home surgery stories.

    Stephen Strange swears by honey to close his wounds. I say superglue and butterflies.

  33. I had glue used on some injuries to the top of my writst that they couldnt stitch but it ended up splitting oopen again and having to be redone.

    Very nice work though :) The ear looks good crazy how bent the jewelery was!

  34. hit me up @ [email protected]. I did a peace corps stint in Ukraine and know some PHENOMENAL body piercers in Kiev who can suture VERY WELL….no less, it would be a fun connection for you…they are all great guys! :)

  35. Neat story and all, but what interests me is that horizontal orbital piercing that appeared from the first day she did the stitching until the day she took the sticthing off! Is it just me or I just dont see any scars from the temporary orbital?

    Also, im trying to get the story straight and figure out why she kept switching piercings throughout healing.. I’m assuming the ‘horse-shoe’ piercing is that inner conch vert piercing that she placed back into the superglued hole?

  36. and wolf

    I think that that “orbital” is in fact her CBR from her lobe pierce without the ball, she has flipped it up to keep it out of the way.

  37. Hello! I’m the person in the pictures. In a conglomerated response to some points brought up in the comments, in case anyone is interested: (1) I do use and prefer butterfly closures, when they’re suitable, but superglue works wonders in cuts that are a pain to keep closed. My own (and excellent) piercer uses superglue on his own cuts, when necessary. (2) I did not have time to quest for butterfly closures, and they may not have been available anyway. I was working a lot and barely had time. (3) Given the location on my body, a butterfly closure would have tricky, if even possible. (4) Maybe it’s ambiguous from the story, but, I did make every attempt not to get glue in the wound. It just kept happening because I don’t have three hands. Had I had a worthy assistant, superglue would have been preferable to stitches. (5) I disagree that it would have healed fine on its own. Healed? Yes. Attractively? Perhaps, but it bothered me that its “resting state” when not super-glued or stitched was gaping open. In my past experiences with cuts on my hands, those kinds of injuries are not going to heal as quickly or beautifully as ones you keep closed. I also thought it would open or re-open in my sleep, and/or that shower water would open it up (even if I protected it from spray; water damage is the cause of a raised scar I have on my shoulder). (6) About the gauge: I don’t understand the comment. I mean, I know the “cheese cutter” concept, but are you saying that it would have been better to have had the ball rip more violently through my ear? Or to have my earlobe horribly stretched or mangled? That jewelry was coming out, one way or another, seeing as the wire it got caught on was a few feet taller than my head after I jumped off the stool, and I’d rather have the little cut I got than whatever would have happened had my earlobe NOT given way! It sounds like the problem with your mom was the weight of earrings, not the size, and I never wear heavy earrings, so why would it matter? I wear 16 gauge rather than 14 because I have a very small face. Even my lip rings are 16 gauge, which is non-standard but it looks much better on my little face. I also don’t understand your comment about it bending. You talk as if it’s a problem that it bent when, really, the bending could have saved me all the trouble (though it happens that it did not): Had it bent even more, or faster, the jewelry might have fallen off the wire and no injury would have occurred. (7) Last by not least: I did not mean to offend Ukrainians by saying they had bad hospitals. However, I had pretty skeazy experiences myself there (like the one I mention) in hospitals, and my own adult students had told me god-awful things. All in all though, I loved central/eastern Europe (spent 10 months in Hungary as well) and would go back in a heartbeat if I wasn’t busily earning my PhD back in my home country of America.

  38. Thanks, all for the great information and the photographs. A bit of a catastrophe and really very brave for someone to endure what must not have been very pleasant… quite helpful to me which is much appreciated, the information about Superglue. I had a conversation with my Primary Care Doctor about my rather bizarre ear problem which occurred due to an old, stretched out ear piercing. The lobe finally just “gave it up”…didn’t tear or even bleed. Just very gradually separated. This Doctor (an American in American, as am I) recommended a very specific placement of a drop of glue in a strategic location above where I might have “intuitively” placed it (at the bottom, which he pointed out would likely have caused an odd looking misalignment in the way the lobe healed). From all that you’ve written, his advice sounds “spot on”. I’d thought he could sew the two “halves” together or staple them and he said “not a good idea..they’d likely grow back together in an asymmetrical way.” NOW I get it. The lobes have lengthened, would require uniform shortening and in effect, would be an act of plastic surgery. That’s asking quite a lot from an Osteopath at the end of his workday! : ) ..and he knows I do not like needles.

    Instead, he told me to put a drop of glue ABOVE the essence where the original pierce hole had been made and then use some form of adhesive to bring the bottoms of the lobe together, as he believes, the separated skin will heal together when it is kept adjacent with some form of adhesive bandage. As for keeping a piercing open, this may present a bit of difficulty. For the moment, I’m more concerned with joining my eerily split ear lobe into a single lobe again! I considered keeping a thin piece of gold or surgical wire below the drop of Superglue, but then realized I will CREATE an irritation where none existed before and very likely permanently have a thin piece of wire sticking out of my ear, which is likely to require me to damage anything that might have healed should I attempt to remove it. Therefore, the best I can do for the time being is to simply allow the ear to heal and hope that it actually DOES and then attempt to pierce the ear in a location that is different, as in “sufficiently removed from the location that it does not impact the area that was damaged.” I knew the lobe had stretched over decades..I just never imagined it would totally SEPARATE into halves as it did.

    Meanwhile, I might attempt to wear an ear cuff or (ick!) clip on..or just go around with naked ears until the one “flipper” ear fully repairs itself. I haven’t quite made up my mind, but THIS is definitely the BEST article I’ve found where what I thought was a rather strange problem was addressed in a very detailed, truthful and helpful way. I SO admire your courage!

  39. You did a great job! I dont know if I could do that to myself but hAve ripped ear lobes from being younger, heaving earrings/sister pulling them etc. is there any tips you can give me to fix it?? Id love to know how

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