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Infrared Technology: A New Answer to 'Tattoo Regret'

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With TRIC, the patient receives an injection of a local anesthetic prior to infrared treatment. The physician uses infrared light to induce a superficial second-degree burn to the skin with the tattoo. This type of burn causes blisters but involves less loss of the skin's natural pigment than a deeper second-degree burn. Afterward, the burn is treated with antibiotic ointment and a cream to reduce inflammation and is then covered with a pressure dressing. The new skin is free of tattoo ink, but it will typically have a flat scar.

Experts are not certain what the eventual role of a device like TRIC would be in the field of tattoo removal. "Since the ancient Egyptians, the problem in tattoo removal has been that removal induces scarring," says Phillippe Capraro, MD, a plastic and reconstructive surgeon in private practice in Denver, Colo., who commented on the procedure for WebMD.

"I'm always excited by new technology, and Wilkinson deserves a lot of credit for finding an affordable method of tattoo removal for a group of people who need the treatment," says Paul J. Carniol, MD, who also commented on the new technique for WebMD.

Carniol, a clinical associate professor of plastic surgery at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey in Newark and the author of two cosmetic surgery books, Facial Rejuvenation and Laser Skin Rejuvenation, still has some questions about the procedure.

He is cautious about TRIC's potential to satisfy more mainstream patients with 'tattoo regret,' such as a man or woman who doesn't want to go through life with a former sweetheart's name on his or her body. "I wouldn't rush to do the infrared procedure on all my patients until I know more about potential problems, such as hypertrophic scarring and pigmentation problems," says Carniol, referring to the risk of a raised scar and the risk that the treated skin would likely be either lighter or darker than the surrounding skin. "A more demanding patient population may be less able to tolerate these effects."

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