Late Breaking News
Tattoos, Uniforms Don’t Always Go Together, So MTFs Busy Removing Skin Art Cont.
The dermatology residency training program at Wilford Hall Ambulatory Surgical Center has the capability and does about five tattoo treatments a week, Greeson said.
Removals range from cosmetic tattoos to skin damage or discoloration caused by injury or disease. Greeson said the patients who come in for cosmetic reasons may need the tattoo removed because it is inappropriate or it simply does not reflect who they are anymore.
“Maybe they got it at a younger age and they are trying to have a more professional image, or they are applying for a job and they don’t want that tattoo any longer. It could also be an old boyfriend or girlfriend’s name. I’ve seen that,” he said.
Removal is “straightforward,” Greeson explained, but it can take anywhere from three or four laser treatments to 15 or more treatments, depending on the quality of the tattoo, the ink type, density, depth and location on the body. The length of treatment sometimes comes as a surprise to patients.
“You have to set really good expectations with these patients as they come in, because they come in expecting the tattoo to be removed. A lot of what I hear when they come in is that they think it will be four to six treatments and the tattoo will be gone and that is what you often read in a lot of magazines and books. But honestly, it is rarely that quick,” said Greeson. “The prices add up pretty fast when you start paying per treatment.”
Residents Learn Removal
The dermatology residency program at Wilford Hall Ambulatory Surgical Center is a combined Air Force and Army program and is the largest in the military and one of the largest in the U.S., Greeson explained.
“We have a lot of laser platforms,” he said. “A lot of these things in the civilian world are used for cosmetic purposes, but we learn a lot from using these. We do treat cosmetic patients, although they are low priority, but we try to take a lot of those lessons learned from treating cosmetic patients and apply them to patients who have a medical indication.”
The program is trying different techniques for removal. One technique is to double treat in a single visit. A patient will have a treatment and then sit for 30 minutes before undergoing a second treatment.
“Before, you would do one treatment, and then the patient would come back in anywhere from three to six weeks for a second treatment,” he said. “Now, we will actually treat twice in one setting. We have found some improvement from that.”
Another technique they are trying is to add in a carbon dioxide laser, which targets water as opposed to pigment.
“It is somewhat helping with the removal,” he said. “It basically destroys tissue and punches little holes in the skin, and then it helps expel some of the tattoo ink content. …We are potentially going to do a little study to evaluate the effectiveness of that.”