Infectious Complications of Tattoos

Tattooing carries several medical risks, including the transmission of infectious diseases. We review the published literature on the transmission of hepatitis B virus, human immunodeficiencyvirus, Treponema pallidum, papillomavirus, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, and other organisms by tattooing.

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Infectious Complications of Tattoos
Education, through public health measures, should promote the prevention of infectious disease transmission. Particular populations who could benefitfrom education include prisoners, individuals involvedwith correctional facilities,youths, military personnel, and health care providers coming in contact with populations at risk for tattoos.
Tattooing, the placement of pigment particles underneath the epidermis to remain indelibly in the dermis, carries several medical risks including the transmission of infectious diseases. Although the actual rate for infections from tattooing is unknown, we review all the English-language literature and selected foreign-language articles on the infectious complications of tattoos.
Background/Demographics of Tattooing.
Various cultures worldwide have performed tattooing for thousands of years [1-8]. Tattooing increased in popularity during the nineteenth century in the United States and Britain. This increase is in part attributed to the invention of the electric tattoo machine in the early 1890s that made the practice more efficient and accessible [9, 10]. Tattoos have been common in the military [10, II], increasing during times of war [12]. Although prevalent in the past [3, 9, 13, 14], tattooing in the late twentieth century is experiencing a surge among the general population in the United States and Britain [IS], including teenagers and schoolchildren [16-18]. The prevalence of tattooing was reported to be 12% among the general population in Britain in 1962 [16], 6.3% and 0.07%, respectively, among males and females in Sweden in 1961-1963, [12], and 9% and I %, respectively, among males and females in the United States in 1983 [19]. Although people of all..
Tattooing Methods
All tattooing methods involve inserting pigment into the dermis, where it remains permanently. Methods include incising or burning the skin and rubbing coloring matter into the wounds [39], drawing on the skin and poking the ink in with a needle [18], and using modern electric tattoo machines. With the exception of Japan, where professional tattooing is still done by hand, most professional tattooists in developed countries today use the electric tattoo gun. A tattoo gun consists of a rotating motor in a handle connected to a bar that runs through a shaft to the needles. One to 14 solid-bore needles are used, depending on the thickness of the line or shading desired. The needle or needles protrude from the end of the shaft about 2-3 mm. When the motor is activated by electricity, the needles move up and down several hundred times per minute. The tattooist holds the tattoo gun at a constant level over the subject\’s skin, and the needles repeatedly puncture the skin [9, 40]. The procedure, if performed in a tattooist\’s shop, begins with the selection of a design. The skin to be tattooed may be shaved. The design is then drawn or stenciled on, and the skin is sprayed with an antiseptic solution. A thin layer of petroleum jelly or a similar substance is spread over the site.

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