Laser tattoo removal techniques continue to be refined

Laser tattoo removal techniques continue to be refined

Doug BrunkDermatology News

Laser tattoo removal techniques continue to be refined

AT MOAS 2018
SAN DIEGO – Picosecond lasers have surpassed Q-switched lasers as the treatment of choice for tattoo removal, delivering high energies in trillionths of a second.

Dr. Amanda Champlain
Dr. Mathew Avram performs laser tattoo removal as Dr. Jennifer Sawaya looks on.
“A picosecond is to a second as 1 second is to 37,000 years,” Mathew M. Avram, MD, JD, said at the annual Masters of Aesthetics Symposium. “That’s equivalent to the total energy of the city of San Diego for 300-750 trillionths of a second.”
According to Dr. Avram, director of laser, cosmetics, and dermatologic surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, picosecond lasers produce extreme cavitation and cell rupture, with a desired clinical endpoint of immediate dermal whitening of tattooed skin. The process causes transdermal elimination of the tattoo ink. Some of the ink flows into the lymphatic system, while the rest undergoes rephagocytosis by dermal scavenger cells.

Commercially available picosecond lasers include devices with wavelengths of 532 nm, 755 nm, and 1,064 nm that deliver energy in a range of 300-750 picoseconds. Nd:YAG lasers work best for red and black ink, while alexandrite lasers work best for green and blue ink. In Dr. Avram’s experience, picosecond lasers are generally more effective for tattoo removal, compared with nanosecond lasers. “There is some nonselective targeting of other pigments, and they’re particularly effective for faded tattoos, but the devices are more expensive,” he said.
Dr. Avram, who is also the faculty director for laser and cosmetic dermatology training at Harvard Medical School, also in Boston, advises against promising a certain number of laser treatments during initial patient consultations. “You will regret it,” he said. “Tattoos are notoriously unpredictable in how they respond. I often hear people say they get rid of these in three to five treatments. That isn’t my experience with these lasers. Often, all you’re going to be able to do is get significant clearing rather than tattoo removal. Professional tattoos are the most difficult to treat because they are the deepest and they have the most amount of ink.”

Dr. Mathew Avram performs laser tattoo removal as Dr. Jennifer Sawaya looks on.

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