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Studies Show Limits, Promise of Laser Removal of Tattoos
Date:9/18/2012

Saedi, "because tattoo removal really hasn't made much progress over the last 20 years. But now we found that the pico laser was able to clear tattoos away with far fewer visits and the same side effects," which she noted can include swelling, wetness and occasional blistering.

The new technology is not yet available, and though it will offer speedier removal, it will not be perfect.

"Even with pico lasers, some tattoos will be hard to treat," Saedi acknowledged. "We didn't have these sorts of patients in our study, but yellow or orange tattoos, for example, would be difficult to treat, just because they don't absorb the wavelengths very well from any laser. And basically any tattoo ink that's not pure any [color] -- outside of black -- will still be difficult to remove, as will high-color density tattoos. Older tattoos are still going to be a problem, and healing will still take longer among smokers and those with leg tattoos. These problems won't go away."

Saedi also noted that because the new laser equipment will be more expensive, the per-session treatment price will also be higher.

How pricey?

"I'm really not sure. In general, getting tattoos removed is very expensive. It costs several hundred dollars per treatment session, and with the current technology you'll need eight to 10 treatments and still might not get complete clearance. The [pico laser] might cost more per session but end up being cheaper overall, since there are fewer sessions involved. It remains to be seen."

More information

For more on tattoos, visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

SOURCES: Nazanin Saedi, M.D., assistant professor and director, laser surgery and cosmetic dermatology, department of dermatology, Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia; Luigi Naldi, M.D., Centro Studi GISED, Bergamo, Italy; Sept. 17, 2012,
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