Painting of the human body goes back to the beginning of recorded history, and thus the removal of unwanted tattoos has probably been around that long as well. The variety of techniques used to apply tattoos is staggering; the source of the ink, where on the body the tattoo is applied, colors and designs used, even the depth into the skin can vary dramatically. Thus the approach that the practitioner faces to remove tattoos must take into account that every person and every tattoo that is unique.
Presented by: Dr. Kevin Duplechain
The application of tattoos has become a widespread practice with a long cross-cultural history. Tattoo Clinics are opening across the US, resulting in the number of people receiving tattoos to grow at an exponential rate (45 million in 2012 and an estimated 32% growth rate). Motley Fool (September 2012) identified this as a growing industry stating, "around 6.6 million 18-to-24-year-olds in the U.S. have tattoos. If just a quarter of them decide to get a tattoo removed at some point, that's 1.65 million people paying up to $2,000 each to take their tats off. If we are conservative and assume it costs an average of $1,000, that's already a $1.6 billion industry. Considering that 38% of 30-to-39-year-olds have tattoos as well, we can immediately see that this market has even more potential than we've figured." Industry statistics for 2012, as documented by IBIS World, state that tattoo removal procedures are expected to continue growing at a compounded revenue rate of 20.9% annually. Additionally, the latest statistics from The Patient's Guide®, highlighted that laser tattoo removal procedures climbed 32% from 2011 to 2012.
If your clinic isn't offering tattoo removal, you may be missing out on a growth opportunity.
Before the advent of the medical laser, common techniques included cryosurgery, dermabrasion or excision. As people (and their tattoos age), tattoos fade and become even harder to treat. As lasers became widely available for a range of dermatological conditions, many different lasers were tried to remove tattoos. As mentioned above as tattoos vary widely, a laser that is able to treat a wide range of colors, intensity, and depths was needed. It was found that lasers that produce a very short pulse through Q-Switched technology are most effective.
The Q-Switched Laser has become the gold standard treatment for across all colors of tattoo removal. By creating a very short high energy pulse, the tattoo ink is thermo-acoustically broken up into minute particles that the body can readily absorb. As the laser attacks the tattoo, a light grey "frosting" appears on the tattoo, a signal that the appropriate energy was applied and the removal process will begin.
As the industry grows, so do the number of devices on the market. Not all devices are created equal and successful outcome depends on a variety of factors. The Spectra with its high power output and variety of dye hand pieces from Lutronic has become a gold standard for removing tattoos.
Removal of tattoos depends on the principle of selective photothermolysis; when the proper wavelength is applied the ink absorbs the energy preferentially, causing it to break down. The body's natural healing processes remove broken down pigment over time. Surrounding tissue is largely unaffected, but not entirely spared, so tattoo removal is typically uncomfortable for patients. Numerous sessions are required to maximize results.