The surgical intervention by physically cutting out the affected area of skin would only normally be recommended when other, more conservative, treatments had already been tried. The decision to excise (cut out) the lesion may also be affected by the underlying cause of the lesion, which may be due to a number of underlying conditions.
Chondrodermatitis nodularis helicis (CNH), for example, is a fairly common but painful lesion found on specific parts (helix or antihelix) of the external ear. Although the lesion is benign (non-cancerous), it doesn’t usually get better by itself, so some treatment will probably be required if it’s causing annoyance or discomfort.
Other skin lesions on the ear, such as tumours, moles or cysts, may need to be removed if they cause you significant problems or if they could be cancerous. Lesions which cause concern need to be checked by a specialist to establish whether they are malignant (cancerous) or benign (non-cancerous). These lesions may need to be excised either for diagnosis or for removal.
If you have a skin lesion which could be malignant you are strongly recommended to have it checked as soon as possible so it can be diagnosed and, if necessary, treated at an early stage.
In most cases lesions can be removed under local anaesthetic, which means you’ll be awake, but the area around the lesion will be numb so you won’t feel anything during the operation. Most procedures are quick and simple and you’ll be able to go home on the same day as your treatment.
There are a range of surgical techniques which can be used to remove a lesion on the external ear, depending on their type, their size and their exact location. Your consultant will explain what treatment they will use.
Surgical excision is the removal of the lesion using a scalpel. Surgical options include curettage (removing tissue by scooping and scraping), electrocautery (using an electrical current to remove and cauterise tissue) and carbon dioxide laser ablation (which removes layers of skin and resurfaces it).
Before you leave hospital we’ll explain what you need to do to care for your wound. It's normal for a scab to appear and this will usually heal within two to three weeks. Any redness or swelling should disappear within a few weeks.
After treatment there is a chance that some skin lesions may recur, or more may appear. Treatment may leave a scar, the severity of which depend on the exact operation you have. Most scars fade significantly over the first year.
The availability of alternative treatments will depend on the exact nature of the lesion. You can discuss any appropriate choices you may have with your consultant