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Lasers Med Sci. 2014 Mar;29(2):729-38. doi: 10.1007/s10103-013-1395-1. Epub 2013 Aug 2.

An Internet-based survey on characteristics of laser tattoo removal and associated side effects.

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Department of Dermatology, University Hospital Regensburg, Franz-Josef-Strauss-Allee 11, 93042, Regensburg, Germany,


Tattoo removal by laser therapy is a frequently performed procedure in dermatological practices. Quality-switched ruby, alexandrite, or Nd:YAG lasers are the most suitable treatment devices. Although these techniques are regarded as safe, both temporary and permanent side effects might occur. Little has been published on the frequency of complications associated with laser tattoo removal. We performed an Internet survey in German-speaking countries on characteristics of laser tattoo removal and associated side effects. A total number of 157 questionnaires entered the final analysis. Motivations for laser tattoo removal were mainly considering the tattoo as youthful folly (29%), esthetic reasons (28%), and 6% indicated medical problems. One third of participants were unsatisfied with the result of laser tattoo removal, and a complete removal of the tattoo pigment was obtained in 38% only. Local transient side effects occurred in nearly all participants, but an important rate of slightly visible scars (24%) or even important scarring (8%) was reported. Every fourth participant described mild or intense tan when the laser treatment was performed, and the same number of people indicated UV exposure following laser therapy, which should normally be avoided in these circumstances. As reported in the literature, nearly half of the participants experienced hypopigmentation in the treated area. Our results show that from the patients' point of view there is an important rate of side effects occurring after laser tattoo removal. Appropriate pretreatment counseling with regard to realistic expectations, possible side effects, and the application of test spots is mandatory to ensure patient satisfaction. Laser treatment should be performed by appropriately trained personnel only.

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