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 14

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

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  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
4.7 out of 5 stars 28 reviews

Numbness=Damage of Greater Auricular Nerve?

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Thank you for your question. Patients should not be concerned too greatly about numbness, even if the area can still register pain without actual feeling. Such symptoms usually resolve themselves within 3 months or so.

Ramtin Kassir, MD
New York Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.7 out of 5 stars 180 reviews

Numbness May Be Related To Swelling, Healing or Scar Formation

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Injuries to the greater auricular nerve can definitely cause numbness of the earlobe and upper neck region. This injury is usually always noted immediately following surgery. The onset of numbness seven months following surgery makes greater auricular nerve injury unlikely.
Under these circumstances, your tightness and numbness are probably related to swelling, wound healing and scar formation. For this reason it’s important to consult your plastic surgeon. Your surgeon can hopefully determine the cause of your symptoms and institute appropriate treatment.

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Facial Numbness Seven Months After Facelift Surgery

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It is fairly common for patients to experience temporary numbness on both side of their face following a facelift surgery. During the skin flap elevation and the surgical dissection some of the small sensory nerves to the skin must be transected in order to tighten the facial muscle. These nerves will regenerate over time anywhere between 6 weeks up to a year. Damage to Greater Auricular nerve causes immediate post operative numbness to the earlobe and around the ears.It would take up to a year or two to have regeneration of the nerve and return of sensation. Numbness starting 7 months post facelift surgery may caused by suture granuloma applying compressing on the Greater Auricular Nerve.

Kevin Sadati, DO
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Numbness or Tightness 7 Months after Facelift

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     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

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

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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
4.6 out of 5 stars 18 reviews

Tightness/Numbness 7 mo Post Surgery

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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, FACS
Seattle Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.7 out of 5 stars 231 reviews

Facelift and greater auricular nerve injury

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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
4.7 out of 5 stars 63 reviews

Numbness after Facelift

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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.

Dmage to Great Auricular Nerve During Facelift

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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
4.9 out of 5 stars 43 reviews

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.