What are post operative ‘dog ears’?

What is a dog ear?

An excess ‘pucker’ of skin and fatty tissue at the end of an incision line.  They are more common in procedures that involve the removal of a large amount of skin, fat or tissue, for example abdominoplasty, brachioplasty, breast reduction or bilateral subcutaneous mastectomy. Pockets of swelling along the incision line are sometimes mistaken for dog ears during the first few weeks or months of surgery.

Dog ears are more likely to occur at the end of an incision line if a patient has residual fat, or loose skin, in the adjacent area. 

An example of this can sometimes be seen following abdominoplasty, especially if the patient has experienced significant weight loss. Where the tummy tuck incision stops at the hips, patients sometimes have residual skin or fat.

scarring skin tag
skin tag

This fat can be reduced using liposuction and the skin can be excised using an extended or belt lipectomy at the same time as the abdominoplasty, but often patients do not want the additional cost or scarring associated with these additional abdominoplasty extensions. Where the tight, excised part of the stomach meets the lose skin or fat on the hips or flanks, the end of the incision can pucker. The chances of having a dog ear are much lower if a patient has always had a stable and healthy weight, and only has skin (not much fat) to be removed.

skin tag after surgery

Do dog ears go away on their own?

In most cases, irregularities along the scar line are less visible once superficial swelling has subsided, in the 3-6 months after surgery. But in some cases, dog ears remain after the swelling has dissipated.

 

How are dog ears removed?

If dog ears persist after your swelling has subsided, they can usually be excised under local anaesthetic in our clinic.

The procedure takes about 20-30 minutes. The area is completely numbed by a local anaesthetic injection. You will revisit the clinic a week later for the incision to be checked and tape changed.

 

Dog ears: things to consider

 As with all surgical procedures, it’s imporant to have realistic expectations about your results, based on how your body looked before surgery. If your skin has been very stretched in the area you are having your procedure, dog ears are more likely to occur. Also, if you want a standard incision length for your arm lift, abdominoplasty etc – but still have residual fat and loose skin in the area where your incisions will end,  you are more likely to have a dog ear.

While dog ears can be relatively easily excised after your swelling has gone down, it’s important to consider how you might feel about having a minor procedure after your primary surgery, and the additional recovery time required.