Surgical Tattoo Removal

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Tattoo removal (Surgical excision of Tattoos)


At Doctors Makeover, our cosmetic surgery clinic is inspected and registered with the UK regulatory body, Care Quality Commission (CQC). Doctors Makeover is a provider of “Surgical Procedures” in the United Kingdom. Our experienced and highly qualified doctors are Fellows of the Royal College of Surgeons (FRCS) and/or specialist plastic surgeons and are fully registered with the GMC in the United Kingdom. When you attend your initial free no obligation consultation for surgical removal of your tattoo, we will explain surgical excision of tattoos in detail and possible risks and complications of surgical tattoo removal, and answer any question you may have. The surgical excision of tattoos involves cutting out the entire tattoo under local anesthesia and is considered to be safe, effective, quick, affordable and straightforward procedure. 

For more information on surgical excision of tattoos, we have provided answers to some common questions, please click on each question below.

  • What is a tattoo?

    Tattoos are artificial intra-dermal (inside skin) irreversible and permanent colouring for decorative purposes anywhere on the body, although in some parts of the world tattoos are used to enhance lips, eyebrows and between the eyes. 
  • What are the reasons to have a tattoo?

    Cultural tattooing is common in many parts of the World.
    Commonest reasons for having a tattoo are for decorative and cosmetic purposes.
    Tattoos are used as a camouflague to hide skin discolourations, moles and abnormal skin areas.
    Tattoos are used for memorial reasons, for example, to remember or mark a relationship, and having a child.
    Tattoos are used for magical beliefs in some cultures.
    Tattoos are used for religious beliefs, in some sects.
    Tattoos are used for identification with a particular group of people.
    Tattoos are used for being a member of a gang.
    Tattoos are used for belonging to an ethnic group.
    Tattoos are used for forensic and identification purposes.
    Tattoos are used for marking events in one's life.
    Tattoos are used as a mark of dreadful and inspiring events, for example, after 9/11 some people have tattooed tributes on their body.
    Generally speaking, the adverse effects of having a tattoo should be weighed against its benefits in the long-term.
  • How common are Tattoos?

    Tattoos have been used to change body image from ancient times. There were 57 tattoos on the body of an ice mummy when in 1991 found in the Austrian alps. The date of this mummy goes back to around 3300BC , according to the reports. Although tattoos used to be associated with criminals and thugs, today celebrities are using tattoos as a body art and young people mimic their role models. Therefore, tattoos have never been more popular than today. For example, in 2001, there were 700 tattoo service facilities in the UK, compared with 1200 in 2011. It seems that there is no more stigma among the population with having tattoos on their bodies, and tattoos are becoming more common among women, professionals and all ethnic groups.

    It is estimated that about 20 million people in the United Kingdom bear a tattoo on their body and various surveys in the USA reveal on average that about 35% of Americans aged between 18 to 29 and about 25% of those between 30 to 40 years and 10% of those between 40 to 49 years have tattoos.  About 15% of males are more likely to have a tattoo, compared with 12% of females. Therefore, having a tattoo depends on the cultural background, age, sex, ethnic group and probably social class in any society. 

  • Where should I go to have a safe tattoo, and what are the common tattooing side-effects?

    Apart from the art work, equipment and the artists' technical skills, it is important to be aware that having a tattoo carries some risks.  The risks include pain, bruising, swelling, infection and scar formation, apart from transmission of infections such as Hepatitis B, C and HIV. There is also a risk of the tattoo being imbedded too deeply into the skin with colour changes and reaction to local aesthetic drugs and sensitivity to the ink. Usually, the tattoo should be wrapped for at least a day and should not be exposed to sun, ideally, for several months. There are also a variety of ink qualities which are being used in the tattooing industry. Therefore, there are some concerns that some of the ingredients and the materials used in tattooing that are impregnated into the skin, and under the skin (subcutaneous tissues) might slowly be absorbed by the body circulation and these harmful substances might accumulate in certain body tissues such as in the brain, causing long-term physical and/or psychological health problems.
  • What are the main reasons for tattoo removal?

    In a survey in 2008, 17% of individuals with tattoos expressed regret.  The common reason for regret was that they had the tattoo when they were too young and almost all of these people had the tattoo in their late teens, followed by reasons such as “it is permanent and I was marked for life” or they just say they did not like it anymore. Our experience also suggests that there are certain professional occupations which discourage people wearing tattoos, for example, we have seen people who want to enter police or army services in the United Kingdom. We have also experienced seeing people who want to enter the teaching profession and being asked to remove their easily visible tattoos. There were also a significant number of people who stated that they suffered embarrassment, some of the people asked for removal before starting a new job or other life events such as having a baby, going through a divorce, or changing partners, or preparations for a wedding.  It seems that with ever changing trends and mood of the people it is no wonder that a growing number of people might get bored with their tattoos and want to remove them. It is also thought that unlike in the past, tattoo removal methods have become more developed, and safer and they are more readily available. Surgical excision of tattoos is most highly efficient for tattoo removal by a qualified surgeon. 

  • What are the options for permanent tattoo removal?

    There are several options for permanent tattoo removal: 
    1.  Cover-up the tattoo. When an individual has not made a decision on permanent tattoo removal, the tattoo can be covered by a wide variety of techniques, depending on size, shape and colour of the tattoo.  There are some people who might cover-up the tattoo by another tattoo. 
    2. Dermabrasion and salabrasion are methods of tattoo removing by rubbing off the tattoo physically using sand-like coarse surface. Salabrasion tattoo removing involves using a mixture of water and glandular salt particles which are used to rub the tattoo to the point of bleeding and softening the surface of the tattoo. Dermabrasion tattoo removing and salabrasion tattoo removing need to be repeated on many occasions over a relatively prolonged period of time and it is not effective against deep tattoos. Dermabrasion and salabrasion non-surgical tattoo removing are painful and need local anaesthetic before their application. Both dermabrasion and salabrasion techniques of tattoo removing are ineffective with many side effects including tendency for infection and extensive scar formation.    
    3. Laser tattoo removal is one of the commonly used methods.  The laser breaks down and burns some of the ink and other parts of the ink will be absorbed and exposed by the body.  The colour of the tattoo and the nature and wavelength of the laser machine are important factors in the laser ability to remove the tattoo.  Black, dark and blue tattoo colours have a higher success rate when treated by laser compared with other colours treated by the same technique. It is necessary for laser tattoo removal to be repeated under several sessions; the most commonly used laser machine is Q-Switched Laser but like other similar methods, has been attributed to scar formation because laser only destroys and burns the ink of the tattoo, therefore, leaving a permanent outline of the tattoo with scar formation. In comparison, surgical removal of tattoos in skilled hands most probably leaves less scarring with a speedy recovery time.
    4. Manual tattoo removal which uses a specialised gel mixed with a normal saline to be applied to the tattoo area causing the ink to bond with the gel and be displaced to the surface of the skin (epidermis).  However, there is a high risk of scar formation with scar Keloids formation, infection, prolonged healing, changing the colour and texture of the skin and discomfort and pain.  The overall manual method is not very effective and has been replaced by different laser equipment and surgical excision of the tattoo. 
    5. Tattoo removal by Cryotherapy and Thermal Injury has been practiced but the results are unpredictable with several serious side effects, such as infection, extensive scar formation and prolonged period of recovery time.
    6. Surgical excision of tattoos. Surgical excision is a permanent removal of the tattoo by using a surgical knife under local anaesthetic agents. Surgical removal of tattoos has been practiced since tattooing began in ancient times. The reason for tattoo removal are different, the main reason is cosmetic but some are worried about the prospect of their employment or they have become fed-up with the sight of their tattoos, many simply regret their youth decision.  Surgical removal can deal with variable sizes of tattoos regardless of their colour, site and even size, provided that enough skin can be utilised to compensate for the area from which the tattoo has been removed.

  • What are the advantages of surgical tattoo excision over the other methods?

    Surgical excision of tattoos is highly effective method of cutting out the entire tattoo and stitching the skin together at a single session. Surgical excision of the tattoo is the quickest and relatively simple operation with immediate result and a linear scar which fades away after about 8 months. Surgical tattoo excision procedure is most probably the cheapest effective way of complete tattoo removal which is carried out under local anaesthesia. It means it is painless and you can go home after the operation without interruption to your routine daily activities and stay away from your work. However large tattoos might require skin grafting and and necessitate further sessions for surgical excision of tattoo on more than one occasion.

  • What are the disadvantages of surgical tattoo excision?

    The effectiveness and success rate of surgical excision of tattoo in skilled hands over weighs some minor side-effects. Surgical excision of tattoos is a safe and most effective method of tattoo removal. However, it involves injection of local anaesthetic before carrying out a minor surgical excision of tattoo procedure. There is a small chance of reaction to anaesthetic drugs. After removal, there might be some bruising, swelling and the area from which the tattoo has been surgically removed is tender and probably painful for a few days. The wound needs special care to avoid infection and might leave a permanent scar. Surgical excision of tattoos also depends on the skills of the surgeon with no universal standardised outcome.
  • How do you surgically excise a tattoo?

    At your initial consultation we will review your medical history and ask you about your general health, allergies and if you are taking any medication.  We assess the suitability of your tattoo for surgical removal and provide you with information.  On the day of your operation, we will numb the tattooed area with local anaesthetic and surgically excise the entire tattoo and stitch up the edges of skin gap which has been created by surgical removal of the tattoo.  Our aim is to remove the whole tattoo in one session but larger tattoos might need two or more sessions to be removed completely. If more than one session is necessary for surgical removal of a large tattoo, each session of surgical excision of the tattoo needs to be repeated after complete healing of the wound. However,we usually use the same previous incision scar to remove another ring of the tattoo and we repeat the same process until we excise the entire tattoo surgically.

    At Doctors Makeover, we carry out surgical removal of tattoos under local anaesthetic agents. This means you are fully awake during the surgical tattoo removal procedure and you can go home after completion of your tattoo removal operation. There are other options for surgical removal of a very large tattoo, including skin grafting and tissue expansion which are major procedures with potencialy high risk of complications at the donor and recipient sites.

  • What aftercare do you offer after surgical excision of tattoo?

    Surgical excision of tattoos will be performed and then the tattoo is then surgically removed under hygienic and sterile conditions and we normally remove the stitches about ten days after the procedure.  We provide you with contact numbers to have access to your surgeon during the day and night if you have any concerns or questions. 

  • Is surgical tattoo excision a safe procedure?

    Yes, surgical excision of the tattoo is a safe procedure, however, there are factors which may affect the outcome; these factors depend on the patient, the environment under which the procedure has been carried out and the skill of the surgeon.  Your general health and well-being and your tissues power of repair and healing plays an important part in recovery, so that if you are in good health and not suffering from chronic ill-health you should have an uneventful course of recovery, within two weeks without problems. The environment and conditions under which the operation has been carried out is important because of the risk of infection.  The skills of the surgeon, plays a crucial role on the overall outcome of your tattoo surgical removal because apart from doing the operation, the surgeon can also influence the selection and preparation of the patient for operation and making sure the operation is carried out under sterile, aseptic and optimal conditions.

  • What are the main complications after tattoo removal?

    Early post-operation complications of surgical tattoo excision are: discomfort, bruising and swelling at the site of the operation and the area remains tender and slightly painful for up to 48 hours. Bleeding and infection are rare events, however, there are other minor side-effects depending on the size, site and your general health condition. After 48 hours, one can take a shower with improvement in symptoms which continue to improve as time passes. The wound needs to be kept clean to prevent infection and avoid direct exposure to sunlight to avoid scar colour changes for several weeks after surgical excision of tattoo.

  • Why should I use your services to remove my tattoo in your clinic?

    We remove tattoos under local anaesthesia by surgical excision at Doctors Makeover, our cosmetic surgery clinic which is inspected and duly registered by the regulatory body in the United Kingdom, the Care Quality Commission,  as a Day Surgery Hospital for “Surgical Procedures” in the United Kingdom. Our experienced and highly qualified doctors who are Fellows of the Royal College of Surgeons (FRCS) and/or specialist plastic surgeons in the United Kingdom and they are fully registered with the GMC in the United Kingdom. We carry out surgical excision of tattoos, of different sizes and shapes on any part of the body. Among the advantages of surgical excision of tattoos, we offer affordable prices with immediate and better cosmetic outcomes. Tattoo surgical excision is carried out in our “Day Case Surgery”, this means it is safer and you are able to go home on the same day, after surgical excision of your tattoo.

    As a matter of routine policy in our cosmetic surgery clinic, we also provide all our clients with the 24-hour contact details of the responsible doctor after any procedure.

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