U.S. Department of Defense


Date of this Version



Published in J Oral Maxillofac Surg 66:543-546, 2008.


Piercing of various parts of the body has gained tremendous popularity among adolescent and adult populations in recent years. There are no exact statistical reports on the number of body piercings being performed in the United States. One study among 481 college students in New York revealed that 42% of men and 60% of women had body piercing. In the past, the majority of complications of ear piercing were associated with the lobule. Torn ear lobes, localized infection, hypertrophic scars, allergic contact dermatitis, and keloid formations were among the most common, with no significant morbidity. However, “high ear piercing,” defined as piercing through the ear cartilage, is now very popular. Because of the lack of vascularity, piercing of the ear cartilage has been associated with a higher incidence of infections than the lobule. Staphylococcus and Pseudomonas aeruginosa are the most common causative organisms. Most commonly, such infections occur in newly pierced ears and in the warm-weather months of the year. These infections can lead to significant perichondritis and necrosis of the auricular cartilage, often resulting in permanent disfigurement and reconstructive challenges. The oral and maxillofacial surgeon may be presented with such cases and must be familiar with the prompt treatment protocol of the infection.