Tattoo FAQ


1. What is a Laser?
2. How Do I Know if My Problem Will Respond to the Nd-YAG, Ruby, or Alexandrite Laser?
3. How Much Pain Will I Actually Experience From This Procedure?
4. What Are The Risks of the Procedure?
5. Why are Q-Switch Lasers More Expensive Than Other Treatments for Tattoos
6. What Does the Skin Look Like Following Treatment?
7. If Wound Care is Necessary, What Will it Consist of?
8. Where is the Procedure Preformed?
9. Will the Entire Tattoo be Treated at One Time?
10. Will the Entire Tattoo be Removed with One Treatment?
11. Are There any Pre-Operative Instructions I Should Take?
12. Will I be Allowed to Sit in the Sun After -Switch Laser Surgery
13. Are There Any Long-Term Risks from Laser Surgery?
14. What Results Can I Expect rom My Procedure?

1. WHAT IS A LASER?

The term laser is an acronym for light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation. Lasers are instruments that convert electrical energy into light energy for a variety of purposes. In the treatment of skin problems, different lasers are used for different purposes. Physicians have used lasers since the 1960’s. Generalized acceptance has occurred in the last five to ten years with the advent of more precise lasers. The most recent lasers have been improved to the point where they now offer significant advantages over standard techniques in the treatment of a variety of dermatologic problems that will be discussed below.

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2. HOW DO I KNOW IF MY PROBLEM WILL RESPOND TO THE Nd-YAG, RUBY, OR ALEXANDRITE LASER?

Many recent studies have shown remarkable results when these lasers are used to treat tattoos. The availability of all three state-of-the-art lasers enables this program to provide treatment of complex multi-colored tattoos.

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3. HOW MUCH PAIN WILL I ACTUALLY EXPERIENCE FROM THIS PROCEDURE?

Most patients do not require anesthesia. Occasionally, a topical anesthetic agent may be used or a sedative for a child. For those patients who do not require any anesthesia, there is a mild stinging or burning with each pulse, but this is tolerable. For large procedures, intravenous sedative anesthesia is available.

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4. WHAT ARE THE RISKS OF THE PROCEDURE?

The risk of scarring is quite small and probably less than 1%. The most common side effect is temporary hypopygmentation, which is the result of the menanin layer absorbing the energy from the first treatment. Because of hyperpygmentation, the wound has to be protected from damage from ultraviolet light. Using sunblocks and covering the site with clothing are recommended. Sunblocks that block out most of the ultraviolet spectrum are recommended. There is also a small risk of a wound infection. This is treated with systemic antibiotics if a crust forms or purulent scabs appear. Finally, residual hyperpygmentation from a tattoo where there is deeper or more ink or residual epidermal pigmentation may not absorb all of the energy and, therefore, may not respond. These may be treated with other modalities if they persist.

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5. WHY ARE Q-SWITCH LASERS MORE EXPENSIVE THAN OTHER TREATMENTS FOR TATTOOS?

The technology of these lasers is much more sophisticated than other types of treatments. Laser costs, maintenance, service contracts, and training of personnel all factor into higher cost of the patient’s treatments.

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6. WHAT DOES THE SKIN LOOK LIKE FOLLOWING TREATMENT?

The skin immediately turns white, probably from vaporization of the water in the epidermis. Within five minutes this turns to a gray color with redness in the surrounding skin. A dressing is used for the first several days. During this time wearing makeup is not recommended, but sun protection is strongly recommended.

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7. IF WOUND CARE IS NECESSARY, WHAT WILL IT CONSIST OF?

If you develop scabs or a crust after treatment, topical antibiotics will be recommended. Most wounds, however, require simple cleansing with soap and water or with hydrogen peroxide and application of Polysporin or Neosporin ointment. Telfa or non-adherent dressings will be recommended

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8. WHERE IS THE PROCEDURE PERFORMED?

Currently, the procedure will be performed at the Fairfax County Health Department, 6245 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22044. Some cases may be referred for specialized treatment of surgical excision.

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9. WILL THE ENTIRE TATTOO BE TREATED AT ONE TIME?

Depending on the size of the tattoo, if it is possible, the entire area will be treated. Occasionally, test sites may be done to determine the response of your tattoo to the various lasers. If the test sites are considered successful, treatments will begin at the follow-up visit. The size of the area treated on each visit also depends on how the procedure is tolerated and the size of the tattoo.

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10. WILL THE ENTIRE TATTOO BE REMOVED WITH ONE TREATMENT?

This is rarely the case. Most patients require several treatments to clear a tattoo or to get the degree of lightening they desire. A tattoo can be re-treated until the desired improvement is achieved. Generally, 1-2 months between treatments are required. Tattoos can take as many as six to ten treatments to clear.

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11. ARE THER ANY PRE-OPERATIVE INSTRUCTIONS I SHOULD TAKE?

Aspirin and products containing aspirin should be avoided for one week before laser treatment. If you are taking anticoagulants or have blood-clotting problems, please let your doctor know. You should especially avoid excessive sun exposure or tanning for several weeks or months before treatment. The main reason for this is that melanin is a competing pigment with tattoo pigment.

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12. WILL I BE ALLOWED TO SIT IN THE SUN AFTER Q-SWITCH LASER SURGERY?

Your response will be greatly improved if you avoid direct sun exposure to the treated area for at least two months after treatment. Once the wound has improved, you may sit in the sun, if you use sunscreens with SPF #39 or higher on the area in question.

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13. ARE THERE ANY LONG-TERM RISKS FROM LASER SURGERY?

There is no evidence that these lasers have any untoward long-term effects. The wave lengths used do not appears to cause any long-term side effects.

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14. WHAT RESULTS CAN I EXPECT FROM MY PROCEDURE?

Laser surgery is a spectacular and exciting field, but it has its limitations. Unknown variables inherent in individual tattoos and patients make it difficult to predict the final result accuracy. Most patients are extremely pleased with the final result. Every effort will be made to achieve an optimum result for you; however, your doctor cannot guarantee complete success in the treatment of your tattoo.

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