Cauliflower ear: An acquired deformity of the external ear to which wrestlers and boxers are particularly vulnerable.
The cause is damage due to trauma. When trauma causes a blood clot under the skin of the ear, the clot disrupts the connection of the skin to the ear cartilage. The cartilage has no other blood supply except the overlying skin so, if the skin is separated from the cartilage, the cartilage is deprived of nutrients and dies and the ear cartilage shrivels up to form the classic cauliflower ear.
The treatment of the hematoma (the blood clot) is to drain it through an incision in the ear and apply a compressive dressing to sandwich the two sides of the skin against the cartilage.
When treated promptly and aggressively, the development of cauliflower ear deformity is unlikely. Delay in diagnosis and treatment leads to more difficulty in managing this problem and may leave greater ear deformity.