Jeffrey Orringer, MD, an Ann Arbor, Mich dermatologist, is helping patients get rid of unwanted tattoos with laser technology that allows precise removal of the ink without damage to the surrounding skin and—in most cases—without a scar.

Current technology lets the physician choose certain wavelengths of laser light and shine them on the skin. The wavelength of light from the Q-switched laser that Orringer uses targets the tattoo ink. The ink heats up when it absorbs the laser light and the balls of ink “pop like popcorn but on a microscopic basis,” according to Orringer. The body responds by sending in white blood cells that “chew up” the altered ink and lighten the tattoo.

“Some patients tell me that having it removed with a laser is somewhat more uncomfortable than acquiring it in the first place,” says Orringer. “The cost also tends to be greater than the price of having the tattoo applied and can add up to a few thousand dollars for more complex tattoos. Simpler tattoos cost less than that.”

Orringer says that tattoo removal  requires six to 12 treatments. Some tattoos are easier to remove than others, he notes. Those that are older and simpler, and contain fewer colors, are easier to remove, whereas those located on the arms and legs tend to be more difficult.

[www.newswise.com, July 2, 2007]