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Medical Tattoos and Micropigmentation
Slowly but surely, the back alley practice of tattooing is finding credible uses in the medicine world. Believe it or not, there are a few instances where making a permanent mark is necessary for medical procedures. Tattooing occasionally comes into play in the realm of healing and more often than not, there is a practical motivation for an unchanging mark and not too much art is involved. However, this can be an awkward area as sometimes the medical necessity overrides the patient’s choice, occasionally resulting in a required, unwanted tattoo.
The most common application of medical tattooing comes in the realm of radiation therapy for cancer. For certain types of cancer, radiation is an effective treatment but tissues must be precisely treated, neither missed in the x-ray passes nor over-irradiated. A sort of targeting pattern is often tattooed onto these patients as the treatment schedule is frequently stretches over a period of months This is the most reliable way of marking the treatment areas without having to remeasure and remark, giving the oncologist a fixed map to follow.
Increasingly there is usage of tattooing for reconstructive purposes, often called "micropigmentation." In this instance, rather than fanciful designs, the artistry comes in reproduction of the natural, providing the opportunity for restoration through camouflage and re-pigmentation of the skin. Scar re-pigmentation and aureola reconstruction following mastectomy are the leading areas where tattooing can be a part of a patient’s post-surgery treatment options. Replacement of larger areas of skin pigmentation due to disease or burn damage are areas that are seeing expansion of these “dermagraphics” as doctors and tattooists collaborate more with patients to restore a pre-illness and pre-surgery appearance. People of color have the most options in this area. Ink colors can be matched to individual skin tones and shades, allowing all manner of discolorations to be filled and blended with the surrounding areas. Using tattoing to restore flawed patches of skin is a technique that actually works better the darker the person’s skin color and does not work as well for Caucasians. White tattoo ink is not opaque and can not be added into the skin over darker tattoo colors or skin discolorations to make them lighter. A dermatologist would most likely use a laser to remove errant skin pigmentation in those cases.
A British widower recently made international headlines with her choice of tattoo. The 85 year-old woman, who once worked in nursing, visited a local tattooist to have specific “do not resuscitate” instructions tattooed on her chest. Having seen many people resuscitated against their wishes once incapacitated, she wanted to make sure that any attendant medical staff knew her explicit preference. She hoped to spark more debate rather than start a new fashion trend, as well as make sure her final wishes are seen to as she specified.
Content copyright © 2013 by Rae Schwarz. All rights reserved.
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