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Can Damage or Compression of the Great Auricular Nerve Cause Tightness/Numbness Post Surgery?

Can compression or damage to the auricular nerve manifest itself several (7) months after a face lift and what are the symptoms? What can be done to correct damage or compression? Is there any way to definitely tell what is causing these late onset symptoms ie nerve compression or scar formation. Any type of imaging or diagnostic test?

Doctor Answers (11)

Can Damage or Compression of the Great Auricular Nerve Cause Tightness/Numbness Post Surgery?


  Compression, injury or severing the Greater Auricular nerve during a Face Lift or Neck Lift will give numbess to the ear lobe and a small area, of the neck,  just below the ear lobe(s).  This is a sensory, not a motor nerve and there's no treatment if the nerve is damaged.  If damaged, the nerve can regenerate at 1mm per day and could return some function within 12 months IMO.  This nerve can be quite superficial, in the neck tissues and one of the reasons patients should seek experienced Face Lift surgeons.

Beverly Hills Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 12 reviews

Numbness or Tightness 7 Months after Facelift


     The great auricular nerve provides sensation to the earlobe and the numbness would be noticed after surgery and should not arise 7 months later.  I would recommend an exam by your plastic surgeon.  Kenneth Hughes, MD Los Angeles, CA

Kenneth B. Hughes, MD
Los Angeles Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 218 reviews

The greater auricular nerve is a sensory nerve that supplies sensation around the earlobe and the jawline area.


The greater auricular nerve is a sensory nerve that supplies sensation around the earlobe and the jawline area. Injury to this nerve would manifest immediately after the surgery in the form of loss of sensation in these areas.

So, your delayed symptoms are not likely to be related to an injury to this nerve. Instead, these symptoms may well be related to wound-healing and scar maturation which typically does occur several months after the surgery. Gentle massage, lymphatic massage or ultrasound therapy may be helpful in improving the feeling of tightness. Any numbness that you are feeling may well have been present earlier after the surgery but not been as noticeable to you at that time. 

Michael R. Macdonald, MD
Bay Area Facial Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 11 reviews

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Tightness/Numbness 7 mo Post Surgery


Injury to the GAN typically manifests immediately after surgery, not months after.  There is no imaging that can detect the problem and no treatment that can make the nerve regenerate faster, but sensory nerves do continue to regenerate for years after the injury

Sam Naficy, MD
Seattle Facial Plastic Surgeon
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Great Auricular nerve damage


Damage to the great auricular nerve is the most common nerve that can be damaged in facelift surgery. The nerve is a sensory nerve and you would notice either complete numbness or diminshed sensation around the earlobe and into the neck  immediately following surgery. It is very unusual that you would experience numbness starting 7 months after surgery. I would follow up with your plastic surgeon for further advice.

Todd C. Miller, MD
Orange County Facial Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 15 reviews

Facelift and greater auricular nerve injury


The greater auricular nerve can be injured during a facelift.  If the nerve is injured the result would be pain and or numbness around the lateral neck and cheek, in the area of the earlobe.  However, these symptoms would be present immediately after the surgery.  It is highly unlikely that symptoms that began 7 months after a facelift are due to a greater auricular nerve injury from the facelift surgery.  I would suggest you see a neurologist and have them evaluate your problem.  Good luck.

Vincent D. Lepore, MD
San Jose Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 17 reviews

Numbness after Facelift


You did not specifically state where you have numbness.  Greater auricular nerve injury will only affect a portion of the ear and won't cause any numbness on the face.  It would also present immediately and either improve or persist over time, but not present months later.  You should probably see your plastic surgeon and/or a neurologist to determine the cause.

Donald Griffin, MD
Nashville Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 19 reviews

Dmage to Great Auricular Nerve During Facelift


Injury to the Great Auricular Nerve, located below and behind the ear, can cause numbness and the sensation of tightness in the ear and adjacent skin. If the nerve was injured or cut, only the tissue supplied by this nerve would be affected. However, this would be noticed shortly after surgery, not 7 months later.

Richard W. Fleming, MD
Beverly Hills Facial Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 14 reviews

Nerve damage after facelift

The great auricular nerve is the most common nerve injury during a facelift. It crosses the neck muscle about two inches below the ear and can be dinged during a necklift. The injury causes numbness in the earlobe which can be temporary for many. The problem will be noticed right after the lift, never seven months later.
Best of luck,

Peter E. Johnson, MD
Chicago Plastic Surgeon
4.0 out of 5 stars 29 reviews



The greater auricular nerve travels along the side of the neck and heads towards the earlobe. There is one on each side. 

Yes, in response to your question, if there has been injury or trauma or compression or edema to the nerve, there may be temporary or some times permanent numbness to the lower ear and earlobe and the skin around that site.

If there is just some minor injury or some bruising or minor trauma, in most cases this can get better over time. This process can take a longtime however. It may take 12 to 18months in some cases.

Patients can report some tingling, or some other sensations during this process.

Good Luck

Shashidhar Kusuma, MD
Plantation Plastic Surgeon

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.