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A new study promises rapid and effective removal of tattoos

New Delhi: A team of doctors at Maulana Azad Medical College and Lok Nayak Hospital, New Delhi has found a novel method to treat tattoos in one or two sittings as opposed to multiple sittings that are normally required.

The study, titled ‘A promising split lesion technique for rapid tattoo removal using a novel sequential approach of a single sitting of pulsed CO2 followed by Q switched Nd: YAG laser (1064nm)’ has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology.

Tattoo, the oldest form of body art, is all a rage among people now. Tattoo culture is fast catching up in India, fostering an environment of public acceptance and a symbol of youthful self-expression.

While getting a tattoo is not a tough task, thanks to mushrooming professional and amateur tattoo parlours, the problem starts when the same good body art turns bad.

Getting inked comes with many potential consequences, both long-term aesthetic and health concerns. Infection, allergies, skin inflammation, and systemic diseases could result from exposure to certain levels of the chemicals that tattoo contains. Lack of proper training to safely perform invasive tattoo procedures is another sweeping concern.

Many people later decide on tattoo removal for various reasons, with the time and means involved in the removal process often excruciating. While, tattoo removal is no more a tedious procedure with the introduction of different laser techniques, the degree of remaining colour variations or blemishes depends upon several factors – size, location, the individual’s ability to heal, how the tattoo was applied and how long it has been in place.

It could take an individual several sittings expanding over a year to lighten or completely remove a tattoo. In the case of individuals with darker skin it could be even longer and inadequate.

A study by Dr Kabir Sardana, associate professor, department of dermatology and STD, and Dr Vijay Kumar Garg, professor and head, department of dermatology and STD, has found an improved way of reducing the duration of tattoo removal procedure and could be a possible answer to an advancement in the laser techniques used at present.

Though ablative lasers, both pulsed CO2 and Er:YAG have been used for recalcitrant tattoos, very few studies have been done comparing them with pigment specific lasers.

Talking about his research Dr Sardana told AalaTimes, “Laser tattoo removal conventionally uses Q switched (QS) lasers but they require multiple sittings and the end results depend largely on the type of tattoo being treated. In pigmented skin due to the competing epidermal pigment, laser results in insufficient tattoo removal. Our study was based on the premise that ablating the epidermis overlying the tattoo pigment could help in gaining better access to the pigment while using the Q-switched laser could cause less beam scattering which is relevant in pigmented skin.”

“The research in tattoo removal is directed at significantly reducing the number of sittings while achieving a scar free outcome,” he said.

“The technique involved in our study was to evaluate the efficacy of a combined use of Ultrapulse CO2 and QS Nd:YAG (1064nm) laser in the treatment of tattoos in Indian skin. The prospective analysis of 12 patients was undertaken at the laser clinic of Maulana Azad Medical College, out of which five were treated,” Dr Sardana said.

Underlining the methodological aspects of the procedure involved he said, “A split session trial was done in five patients, with the left side of tattoos receiving the QS Nd:YAG (1064nm) and the right side a sequential combination of Ultrapulse CO2 and QS Nd:YAG at six weeks interval with maximum of six sittings.”

Of the amateur tattoos studied all were blue-black in colour and were of an average duration of 6.2 years. On the side where the QS Nd:YAG laser was used, a gradual lightening was seen as compared to the combination side. On statistical analysis the mean improvement achieved by the Q switched laser was less than the combination laser side.

On the combination side most patients required a maximum of two sittings while the Q switched laser required six sittings in all patients for appreciable lightening. Of the five patients, two patients had partial removal of tattoos at the end of six sittings on the QS Nd:YAG laser side. The patients rated a higher satisfaction score on the combination side.

The outcome assessment was done by a blinded assessor using standardized photography. An assessment of physician improvement score, side effects score and patient’s satisfaction score was done during and at the end of the study. There was a statistically significant improvement on the combination side, which occurred earlier with fewer sittings. There was no statistically significant difference in the side effects, according to Dr Sardana.

“A combination of an Up CO2 laser with QS Nd:YAG laser is a promising tool for rapid and effective removal of blue black/blue amateur tattoos in pigmented skin”, he said.

Commenting on the research findings, Dr Garg told AalaTimes, “It could be a breakthrough in the area of laser technology. It would be of great help for people, especially for those who have opted for jobs like army that mandates any sort of body art to be completely removed. Single coloured tattoos can be completely removed through the laser technique and multi-coloured tattoos can be lightened to a great extent.”

“We are trying to improve the laser techniques by further research in future,” he said.

“My advice for youngsters would be to think twice before inking any tattoo as it may carry many health and emotional hazard. The best way to treat tattoo is not to get it at all,” Dr Garg said.

by Vidhi Rathee


  1. Dr Kewal Krishan Dr Kewal Krishan Sunday, July 21, 2013

    It means, the forensic value of Tattoos is further reduced.

  2. Shajimon Shajimon Saturday, July 13, 2013

    Very good

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