Tattooing is the introduction of pigment under the skin to produce a permanent mark. It may occur sometimes as a result of an accident when dark coloured material is implanted into a wound. Occasionally such traumatic tattooing can be extensive, especially after an abrasive wound and these should be treated at the time of injury by vigorous scrubbing of the abraided areas.
Decorative tattoos are either self-inflicted or professionally performed. In the majority of cases, they are put on at a young age, only to be regretted later. It is later that requests are made to have them removed. Unfortunately, it is a lot more difficult to remove a tattoo than to put it on in the first place.
Surgical treatment is the only possible way of ensuring that all the pigment material is removed. If it is small, the tattoo can be totally excised and the resulting wound closed with stitches. The resulting scar being preferable to the tattoo. Skin shaving, where progressive layers of the skin are removed, can be successful if the depth of the injected pigment is not too deep. The surface of the skin can be removed by several methods such as dermabrasion, laser treatment or with a skin graft knife. Excision and skin graft may be used if the pigment is deep in the skin, the area may be excised and the defect covered with a skin graft.
The procedure can be performed under local or general anaesthesia depending on the size of the tattoo and the preference of the patient and surgeon.
Where the tattoo has been excised and the defect sutured the resulting scar may become stretched or thickened depending on the site of excision. Where a skin graft has been used there will always be a permanent mark. The grafted area will be a different colour compared to the surrounding skin and it will be hairless. Altered pigmentation as a result of sunburn may occur and the margins of the graft may become red and raised. In the majority of cases the graft donor site heals very well but there is always the possibility that it may not.
Tattoos can be only be removed at the expense of significant scarring in some cases. Each scar is unique and only a consultation can give you options.