Cauliflower ear is an acquired deformity of the outer ear. It is not related to the vegetable--cauliflower and I have not been able to find why it came to be called such. Though there is some similarity between how the two look.
The cartilage of the ear has no other blood supply except that supplied by the overlying skin. When the skin is pulled from the cartilage, and/or separated from the cartilage by blood (as with accumulated blood from injury called a hematoma) or infection, the cartilage is deprived of important nutrients. Ultimately, the cartilage dies and the risk of infection is increased. Left untreated, the ear cartilage begins to contract on itself forming a shriveled up outer ear classically known as the cauliflower ear deformity. Once there is cartilage death and scarring (fibrosis), the resulting deformity is very difficult to reconstruct (if at all possible). Often the victim is left with a permanent deformity.
"The review found no trials of good quality to demonstrate that any one technique, which removes the hematoma and prevents its recurrence, gives the best cosmetic outcome. The literature however generally suggests that treatment is better than leaving a hematoma untreated. Well designed studies are required."--4th reference below.
- Bilateral Cauliflower Ear Deformity: An Unusual Presentation of Cutaneous Rosai-Dorfman Disease; Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery. 113(3):967-969, March 2004; Oo, Kenneth K. K. M.B., B.S.; Pang, Yoke T. F.R.C.S., F.A.M.S.; Thamboo, Thomas P. M.B., Ch.B.
- Relapsing Polychondritis, MedScape Article posted 02/24/2004; Peter D. Kent; Clement J. Michet, Jr; Harvinder S. Luthra
- External Ear Trauma--Merck Medicus
- Interventions for acute auricular haematoma; Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2004, Issue 2. Art. No.: CD004166. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD004166.pub2; Jones SEM, Mahendran S
- Cauliflower Ear--MedicineNet.com article
- Management of Auricular Hematoma Using a Thermoplastic Splint; Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg.2000;126:888-890; Henderson,JM, Salama, AR, Blanchaert Jr, RH
- Wrestlers Cauliflower Ear; Care &Prevention; Anthony Donatelli, M.D.