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J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol. 2012 Jun;26(6):685-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-3083.2011.04146.x. Epub 2011 Jun 17.

Specifically requesting surgical tattoo removal: are deep personal motivations involved?

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Department of Plastic Surgery, Töölö Hospital, University of Helsinki and Helsinki University Hospital, Helsinki, Finland.



  Motivations for tattoo removal include employment reasons, stigmata, changes in lifestyles or partners, incompatibility with present attitudes and values and clothing problems. Most studies on the motivations for tattoo removal have focused on patients seeking laser therapy. We hypothesized that patients seeking surgical tattoo removal would present with different motivations.


  We analysed the characteristics and motivations of patients specifically requesting surgical tattoo removal.


  We retrospectively reviewed the medical records of 16 patients in Helsinki, Finland, from 2005 to 2011. Demographic, clinical data, number of tattoos, location and size, time elapsed since tattooing, reason(s) for wanting surgical tattoo removal and surgical operations were analysed and compared with the other literature on tattoo removal.


  Patients were mainly Caucasian females (ratio 3 : 1, median age of 26 years). Tattoos were all done by studio artists, most measured less than 30 cm², and were quite recent (median 5.3 years). Personal reasons accounted for 42.8% of all reasons, professional/social reasons for 37.5% and miscellaneous for 18.8%. Personal concerns were usually marital status changes, with few expressing dissatisfaction with the actual design of the tattoo. Tattoos were excised during a single procedure in 70% of the cases with only one case producing a hypertrophic scar.


  Patients seeking surgical removal were aware of the limits and risks of the technique. They expressed intense personal reasons for wanting radical surgical removal. The possibility of surgical tattoo removal should be accessible to patients if the tattoo is small and discussion reveals strong personal motivation.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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