Lasers have a unique ability to target ink in the skin, allowing for safe and effective removal of unwanted tattoos. During treatment, the ink is broken down into smaller, more easily mobilized particles. After treatment, over a period of several weeks, these particles are gradually removed from the skin. With a series of laser treatments, the tattoo is gradually faded away.
The number of sessions required to remove a tattoo is dependent on the technology used, body location, color, density and depth of the ink. Amateur tattoos respond more quickly than professional tattoos. Each laser treatment takes less than 20 minutes, and is scheduled in one to three-month intervals. With enough sessions most treated tattoos will fade away gradually. We have three of the most advanced laser tattoo removal machines available allowing for the best possible treatment.
We have three very advanced laser systems for tattoo removal: Cynosure Picosure, Fotona QX MAX and the Medlite C6. The Picosure uses an advanced picosecond pulse that gives quicker clearing of some tattoos compared with the nanosecond pulses used by other technologies. The QX MAX and C6 use four different wavelengths of light making them very useful in treating certain ink colors that are difficult to treat otherwise.
To minimize potential side effects, it is important to not have a tan, which interferes with the laser treatment. During the treatment there is some discomfort. During the tattoo removal we often use a Zimmer cooler to blow chilled air in order to alleviate pain. Numbing cream applied 60-90 minutes prior to the appointment or injection of anesthetic immediately before treatment can also be helpful in some cases. Afterward, there is redness, swelling and a sunburn-like sensation. It is possible to develop a blister or crusting. For best possible results it is important to keep the treated area covered with a generous amount of Aquaphor Ointment or Vaseline Jelly until fully healed. Often, during treatment, the skin may temporarily lighten in color. Scarring is rare (less than 5 percent), but more likely when a scab is picked off.
Despite our best efforts and the latest technology, not all tattoos can be completely removed. Below is a patient currently undergoing laser treatment for a very difficult professional tattoo (1) before, (2) after 4 treatments, (3) after 10 treatments, and (4) after 14 treatments). Notice the dark richly multicolored tattoo is very faded, but a shadow still remains after 10 treatments. After 14 treatments the tattoo is almost all faded and patient is extremely satisfied.
Laser tattoo treatment is performed at the VA Dermatology Clinic (Old Spanish Trail and Almeda - two miles southeast of the medical center). The VA hospital is modern, accessible and affiliated with Baylor. Parking is free, with available valet service. The average charge per session is $400 (a large part of the fee goes to the VA to support their programs for veterans). Multiple or large tattoos may be more expensive. Prepayment and scheduling is coordinated by calling (713) 798-6925.