Laser Tattoo Removal

What is Laser Tattoo Removal?

People often desire to eliminate permanently inked tattoos from their bodies, but this has not been possible until the advent of laser technology. Laser Tattoo Removal is a procedure which incorporates the use of laser energy to remove tattooed words and images. Ink colors that are darker and more intense are easier to remove than lighter hues.

How does Laser Tattoo Removal work?

During Laser Tattoo Removal, the intense light beam of the laser penetrates the epidermis without damaging the skin cells to target the darker ink pigment. These dark tissues absorb the high heat and are fragmented by it. Once destroyed these particles are eliminated from the body through an immune system response.

What areas of the body does Laser Tattoo Removal treat?

Laser Tattoo Removal can be used on any area of the body which has permanent inking. It is easiest to remove a tattoo from the arms, legs, chest, and buttocks because the laser works better on fatty portions of the body. However, tattoos on the fingers, ankles, or other smaller body parts can also be successfully treated with Laser Tattoo Removal.

What are the advantages of Laser Tattoo Removal over other similar treatments?

Laser Tattoo Removal is incision-less and much less likely to develop infection than surgical methods of tattoo removal. Unlike tattoo removal methods of the past, Laser Tattoo Removal rarely has residual scarring and usually requires no downtime.

Who is a candidate for Laser Tattoo Removal?

Individuals who have pale skin and light hair usually get the best results from Laser Tattoo Removal because of the contrast between the ink and the skin. Patients with dark complexions or deeply tanned men and women may not have as much success. Also, those who received their tattoo previous to the past decade may have a better removal success rate because inks were not as complex and penetration was shallower in previous years.

How is Laser Tattoo Removal performed?

The patient is often given pain medication to take before arriving for treatment. The doctor will cover the eyes to protect them from the laser. Then, because the pain is similar to that felt when receiving the tattoo, the doctor may numb the area with an ointment. On occasion, if a large area is being treated, the doctor might inject the tattoo with a local anesthetic. After choosing the appropriate laser for the ink color being dispersed and the depth of the tissue, the doctor will direct pulses of laser light at the tattoo. The time needed to cover the area may be only a few minutes or more than an hour. Several sessions may be needed to get the maximum results, but doctors like to schedule these about a month apart to allow the skin to heal.

What is the recovery like?

The doctor will apply a dressing to the treated area and suggest ice packs or cold compresses to minimize swelling. It is best to keep the area dry and cleanse it gently. Acetaminophen may be used for discomfort during the healing period, but anti-inflammatory drugs should be avoided. Patients should stay well hydrated, and sun exposure limited.

What will the results be like?

At first, the area will be red and swollen, but the colored ink will be completely gone. Over the next few months, the images will fade even more, but sometimes raised areas of skin or light pigmentation will remain. Some tattoos can never be completely removed.

What are the risks?

A small number of patients are left with light scarring, and others have some skin discoloration, either light or dark. As with any procedure, there is always a risk of infection, but this is minimal.

Is Laser Tattoo Removal approved for use in the U.S.?

Laser Tattoo Removal is currently the procedure of choice for this purpose in the United States and is approved by the FDA.

Is Laser Tattoo Removal covered by insurance companies?

Insurance companies do not cover the cost of any tattoo removal procedures.

Disclaimer: This information is intended only as an introduction to this procedure. This information should not be used to determine whether you will have the procedure performed nor does it guarantee results of your elective surgery. Further details regarding surgical standards and procedures should be discussed with your physician.

By Staff
Updated: November 24, 2009

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