Second Thoughts About That Tattoo? Here’s Some Advice

FRIDAY, Sept. 20, 2019 — If it’s time for that tattoo to go, here’s some advice from the American Academy of Dermatology.

Lasers removal of tattoos has become safer and more effective, but the results depend almost entirely on the person doing the work.

“For the best results and to reduce your risk of serious side effects, such as scarring, burns and other wounds, it’s important to make sure the person treating you is a physician who is extremely skilled in using lasers and has in-depth knowledge of the skin,” said New York City dermatologist Dr. Marie Leger.

“After that, it’s also important to properly care for the treated skin between sessions, as your skin needs time to heal and flush out the ink,” Leger added in an academy news release.

After each treatment, wash the treated area twice a day with water and a gentle cleanser. Use a clean cotton swab to apply petroleum jelly to the area to help keep the skin moist so it doesn’t dry out or form scabs. To prevent infection, cover the treated area with a dressing until the skin heals.

The treated skin is more susceptible to sun damage, so you should protect it from direct sun exposure. When outdoors, wear protective clothing, such as a lightweight, long-sleeved shirt, pants and a wide-brimmed hat, Leger advised.

After the treated skin heals, use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher that contains zinc oxide. Zinc deflects the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays.

Don’t pick at any flaking, peeling, blisters or scabs that form, and don’t pop any blisters. Doing so can cause infection.

After a laser tattoo removal session, it’s normal to see some redness, swelling and blistering as your skin heals. However, if you notice signs of an infection, such as increasing redness and pain, swelling or pus, see a doctor.

“Tattoo removal requires many treatments, with weeks between sessions,” Leger said. “For the best results, follow your dermatologist’s instructions for at-home care, and keep all of your appointments for laser tattoo removal, as each treatment removes more ink.”

More information

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has more on tattoo removal

© 2019 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

Posted: September 2019

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Could a Tattoo Someday Spot Your Cancer?

By Alan Mozes

HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, April 19, 2018 (HealthDay News) — Tattoos serve many purposes, perhaps expressing artistry, loyalty or love. Now, scientists working with mice say they’ve engineered a medical “tattoo” that can screen for early signs of major disease.

The biomedical tattoo is made up of cells embedded with sensors that measure levels of blood calcium.

It’s initially invisible when implanted under the skin. But the sensors become apparent if blood calcium levels rise. This indicates a condition called hypercalcemia, which is a marker for several cancers and other major diseases.

“Forty percent of all cancers — including colon cancer, lung cancer, breast cancer and prostate cancer — disrupt calcium balance (homeostasis),” said study lead author Martin Fussenegger.

“The biomedical tattoo is designed to catch mild hypercalcemia,” which produces no symptoms, he said.

Appearance of the tattoo may signal that some of those cancers may start to develop, said Fussenegger, of ETH Zurich’s department of biosystems science and engineering in Basel, Switzerland.

When elevated blood calcium persists, the implant releases melanin, producing a telltale dark patch on the skin, he said. (Melanin is a dark pigment responsible for tanning.)

But whether this is just a fun gimmick or a reliable diagnostic tool remains to be seen.

Dr. Janice Dutcher is a medical oncologist with the Cancer Research Foundation in New York City.

She described the innovation as a “neat gimmick.”

“I guess in the context of looking for new and inventive ways to screen for disease, it’s a reasonable idea,” she said. “It’s always nice to try and conceive of a new, simple and accurate way to screen for disease.”

But Dutcher cautioned that screening for high calcium levels is not always an effective way to detect cancer early. Some cancers — kidney cancer, for example — only prompt high calcium after the disease has progressed, she said.

Dr. Norman Edelman, senior medical advisor for the American Lung Association, seconded that point.

In his experience, “the bulk” of tumor-related hypercalcemia occurs at a late stage, when cancer has spread. “It is also a late finding in kidney failure,” he added.

Continued

“So this is really fun science. But I would not spend a lot to license the patent,” Edelman said.

To test their design, the researchers implanted the engineered cells under the skin of mice with either cancerous tumors that cause hypercalcemia or tumors that do not alter calcium blood levels.

The tattoos only surfaced on the skin of mice with elevated blood calcium levels, according to the report.

In theory, said Fussenegger, a tattoo diagnosis would happen at such an early stage of disease “that over 95 percent of the above-mentioned cancer types will be cured.”

He and his colleagues were “impressed by the precision and sensitivity of the tattoo,” he said. A skin patch arose only when high calcium levels persisted, he explained, adding this would reduce the likelihood of false diagnoses.

Still, “animal experiments do not always translate to people,” Fussenegger acknowledged. Human trials are set to begin within five years, he said.

The goal is a human tattoo “universal system” that could detect multiple health issues at once. If all goes according to plan, Fussenegger predicted it could be available within 10 to 15 years.

Besides cancer, Fussenegger said the approach could be linked to other slow-developing diseases. These might include neurodegenerative disorders like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, he said.

The findings were published April 18 in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

WebMD News from HealthDay

Sources

SOURCES: Martin Fussenegger, Ph.D.,  professor of biotechnology and bioengineering, department of biosystems science and engineering, ETH Zurich, Basel, Switzerland, and faculty of science, University of Basel; Norman Edelman, M.D., senior medical advisor, American Lung Association, and professor of medicine, program in public health, Stony Brook University, New York; Janice Dutcher, M.D., medical oncologist, Cancer Research Foundation,  New York City; April 18, 2018,Science Translational Medicine

Copyright © 2013-2018 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

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Traces of Tattoo May Reach the Lymph Nodes

       

By Robert Preidt

       

         HealthDay Reporter        

     

WEDNESDAY, Sept. 13, 2017 (HealthDay News) — Microscopic particles from tattoos can travel within the body and reach the lymph nodes, researchers say.

Along with pigments, tattoo inks contain preservatives and contaminants such as nickel, chromium, manganese and cobalt.

“When someone wants to get a tattoo, they are often very careful in choosing a parlor where they use sterile needles that haven’t been used previously. No one checks the chemical composition of the colors, but our study shows that maybe they should,” said study co-author Hiram Castillo. He’s a scientist at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF) in Grenoble, France.

The researchers said the study is the first to offer evidence that microscopic particles called nanoparticles from tattoos can travel into the body and reach the lymph nodes.

Lymph nodes are small, bean-shaped organs that produce blood cells designed to help fight disease and infections.

“We already knew that pigments from tattoos would travel to the lymph nodes because of visual evidence: the lymph nodes become tinted with the color of the tattoo. It is the response of the body to clean the site of entrance of the tattoo,” study co-first author Bernhard Hesse said in a facility news release. Hesse is a visiting scientist at ESRF.

“What we didn’t know is that they do it in a nano form, which implies that they may not have the same behavior as the particles at a micro [larger] level. And that is the problem: We don’t know how nanoparticles react,” he explained.

The findings were published Sept. 12 in the journal Scientific Reports.

WebMD News from HealthDay

Sources

SOURCE: European Synchronization Radiation Facility, news release, Sept. 12, 2017

Copyright © 2013-2017 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

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Tattoo Remorse? What You Need to Know About Erasing Your Ink

WEDNESDAY, June 28, 2017 — Perhaps your neon forearm tattoo with the name of your high school girlfriend wasn’t your brightest move ever.

If so, you’re not alone.

Forever is apparently in the eye of the beholder. One in eight tattooed Americans regret getting what is supposed to be a permanent form of creative expression, according to a 2012 Harris Interactive survey.

And the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery reports that more and more are doing something about it.

In 2011, its doctors performed nearly 100,000 tattoo removals, up from 86,000 in 2010. And the number continues to rise.

But before you embark on a tattoo cleanse, learn about your options. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which regulates tattooing and tattoo removal, has some practical advice.

One way to go is professionally supervised laser removal, according to Mehmet Kosoglu, an FDA engineer.

The process exposes a tattoo to pulses of high-intensity laser energy. After exposure, tattoo pigment breaks up into small pieces, which can then be naturally metabolized by the body or excreted.

Some colors respond better to laser removal better than others, Kosoglu warns. Green, red and yellow are more stubborn than black and blue. And it will likely take six to 10 procedures to get the ink-free outcome you want.

Dermabrasion is another option, in which the top layer of skin is literally sanded away.

Or you can even have the tattooed skin cut away and surrounding skin stitched together.

Be aware that there are no FDA-approved creams for tattoo removal, FDA dermatologist Dr. Markham Luke said.

“FDA has not reviewed them, and is not aware of any clinical evidence that they work,” Luke noted in an agency news release. In fact, he said, ointments and creams marketed for tattoo removal may cause unexpected reactions, including rashes, burning, scarring or changes in skin pigmentation.

“If you have any concerns about having a tattoo removed, it’s a good idea to consult your dermatologist, who is knowledgeable about laser treatments,” Luke added.

More information

Learn more about tattoo removal options U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Posted: June 2017

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Tattoo Aftercare What to Know

June 8, 2017 – Most people know that dirty tattoo needles can transmit infections like Hepatitis C.

But it is less well known that the wound itself can get infected – something that led to severe consequences for one man who died from a tattoo infection after he went swimming in the Gulf of Mexico.

The man, identified as a Texas resident in a study in the British Medical Journal, had received the tattoo in his right leg and went swimming five days later.  He was admitted to the hospital three days later and tested positive for Vibrio vulnificus, a bacteria found in coastal waters.

Day says that aftercare is important while you are waiting for a tattoo to heal.

“Wash with soap and water,” says Day. “Apply a topical ointment and nonstick bandage during the day and leave uncovered at night”. Remove plastic wrap when you get home, allowing the area to breathe. Plastic wrap keeps in heat and moisture, allowing bacteria to grow.

Both doctors recommend getting medical help immediately if you see any of these signs:

  • For tattoos that are on your arms and legs, a red linear band or streak developing and extending from the area.
  • Worsening pain around the tattoo five to seven days later.
  • Discharge coming from the area.
  • Having a fever, which is a sign of infection.

Sources

BMJ. “Vibrio vulnificus septic shock due to a contaminated tattoo.”

Nicholas Hendren, MD, Internal medicine resident, Parkland Health & Hospital System and UT Southwestern Medical center

JAMA Dermatology. “The Need for Greater Regulation, Guidelines, and a Consensus Statement for Tattoo Aftercare.”

Doris Day, MD, New York City dermatologist, attending at Lenox Hill Hospital  

© 2017 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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FDA Warns of Tattoo Dangers

By Robert Preidt

HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, May 5, 2017 (HealthDay News) — Considering a tattoo? The U.S. Food and Drug Administration wants you to think before you ink.

America’s body-art craze is not without risks, the agency says. From 2004 to 2016, it received nearly 400 reports of problems with tattoos, such as infections from contaminated tattoo inks or allergic reactions.

Potential concerns for consumers include unsafe practices and the ink itself, said Dr. Linda Katz, director of the FDA’s Office of Cosmetics and Colors.

“While you can get serious infections from unhygienic practices and equipment that isn’t sterile, infections can also result from ink that was contaminated with bacteria or mold,” Katz said in an agency news release.

Unsafe ink

“Using non-sterile water to dilute the pigments (ingredients that add color) is a common culprit, although not the only one,” she said.

Katz added there’s no foolproof way to tell if the ink is safe. “An ink can be contaminated even if the container is sealed or the label says the product is sterile,” she said.

Research shows that some tattoo inks contain pigments used in printer toner or in car paint. No pigments for injection into the skin for cosmetic purposes have FDA approval.

Alarming reactions

A number of reactions may occur after you get a tattoo.

“You might notice a rash — redness or bumps — in the area of your tattoo, and you could develop a fever,” Katz said.

“More aggressive infections may cause high fever, shaking, chills, and sweats. Treating such infections might require a variety of antibiotics — possibly for months — or even hospitalization and/or surgery,” she said.

A rash could also mean you’re having an allergic reaction. “And because the inks are permanent, the reaction may persist,” she explained.

“Contact your health care professional if you have any concerns,” Katz advised.

Other problems may show up later. After getting a tattoo, you may develop scar tissue. Or your tattoos might lead to swelling and burning when you undergo an MRI. If your doctor wants to schedule an MRI, be sure to disclose that you have a tattoo, Katz said.

Continued

Other agency tips

Avoid do-it-yourself tattoo inks and kits. They’ve been linked with infections and allergic reactions, and users may not know how to control and avoid all sources of contamination.

Be forewarned that removing a tattoo is difficult, and complete removal without scarring may not be possible.

If you do decide to get a tattoo, make sure the parlor and artist comply with state and local laws.

If an infection or other reaction develops after getting a tattoo, contact your health care provider and “notify the tattoo artist so he or she can identify the ink and avoid using it again,” Katz said. She suggested asking for the brand, color and any lot or batch number of the ink or diluting agent to help determine the source of the problem and how to treat it.

In such cases, the consumer, tattoo artist or health care professional should inform the FDA and provide as much detail as possible about the ink and the reaction.

Sources

SOURCE: U.S. Food and Drug Administration, news release, May 2, 2017

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How Safe Is Your Tattoo Ink?

Aug. 26, 2016 — Before you get that dolphin tattooed on your ankle or “Mom” on your bicep, be warned: The ink used in tattoos may be harmful — even years later.

A new report has raised questions about the safety of tattoo inks used in Europe, most of which are imported from the United States. The inks have been found to contain hazardous chemicals, including carcinogens.

The report, from the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre, also identified heavy metals such as arsenic, lead, and nickel, preservatives, organic compounds, bacteria, and other potentially harmful substances in the inks.

It calls for a thorough review of tattoo inks in use throughout the European Union, and it highlights the need for strict regulation of the inks, which are also used for permanent makeup.

After the report was released, the organization asked the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) to look further into tattoo ink safety.

“Tattoo inks and permanent make up (PMU) may contain hazardous substances — for example, substances that cause cancer, genetic mutations, toxic effects on reproduction, allergies or other adverse effects on health,” an ECHA statement reads.

The concerns accompany a rapid rise in the number of people getting tattoos. Nearly 1 in 3 U.S. adults have a tattoo, according to a Harris Poll. Four years ago, only 1 in 5 adults were inked. Two tattoo industry trade groups, the National Tattoo Association and the Alliance of Professional Tattooists, did not respond to requests for comment.

In this country, the FDA has also raised concerns about tattoo ink.

Last August, the FDA announced a voluntary recall of A Thousand Virgins inks, which were found to be contaminated with bacteria. The year before that, another company, White and Blue Lion, recalled its inks and other tattoo equipment because of contamination that could have caused sepsis, a potentially deadly complication of infections. Other recalls have happened in previous years, both here and in Europe.

Other concerns the FDA raises on its website include:

  • Allergic reactions
  • Itchiness and inflammation when exposed to summer sunlight
  • Granulomas, or small knots or bumps that form around areas where the body senses foreign material, such as the pigments in tattoo ink
  • The spread of tattoo ink to the body’s lymphatic system. It’s unknown whether this has health consequences.

Continued

But the FDA says it knows little about the tattoo inks in use today. Tattoo inks are considered cosmetics, and their color additives are subject to regulatory authority. But the agency says it hasn’t been using that authority “because of other public health priorities and a previous lack of evidence of safety concerns,” writes spokeswoman Lauren Sucher.

“The FDA cannot identify specific components of concern at this time,” Sucher writes. “The FDA is doing research to improve our knowledge of tattoo inks and the ingredients used in them.”

Sucher declined to say whether the FDA will be testing color additives in the future.

“There are no color additives approved for injection as decorative tattoos,” Sucher says. “When we become aware of a safety problem associated with a cosmetic, including a tattoo ink, we investigate and take action as appropriate.”

For some experts, that’s not good enough. “The bottom line is they’re not doing their job,” says Charles Zwerling, MD, chairman of the American Academy of Micropigmentation. “Tattoo ink has very, very minimal regulation. You don’t know if the bottle’s even sterile. In the European study, they found that 5% to 10% were infected with bacteria. That’s kind of scary.”

Zwerling, a North Carolina ophthalmologist who has studied and written about permanent makeup and tattoos for many years, says, “These newer pigments that are coming out have never been tested and, because they’re organic, have a much higher risk of complications … organic pigments can cause horrific allergic reactions. We know this in medicine. This is nothing new.”

Arisa Ortiz, MD, director of laser and cosmetic dermatology and assistant clinical professor of dermatology at the University of California, San Diego, says that red inks are particularly problematic. They can cause both allergic and inflammatory reactions. “It can happen with any color, but red is the most common culprit for allergic reactions,” she says.

In one case, a patient of hers developed severe swelling and fatigue after getting a lip line tattoo, a cosmetic procedure. Her condition did not improve until the tattoo was removed with lasers.

Continued

“Inks can cause systemic reactions when patients are allergic to whatever is in the tattoo, but there’s no way to test if you are allergic to a tattoo dye because the allergic reactions can occur many years later,” she says.

For many people who do react to tattoo inks, the most common symptoms are itching, irritation, and swelling, says Katy Burris, MD, a dermatologist at Northwell Health in Manhasset, NY.

“Usually your immune system eventually learns to accept it, so I wouldn’t say it would be permanent, but it would probably take months to resolve,” Burris says.

No link between tattoo inks and cancer has been established, but concern exists because carcinogens may be among the ingredients. Ortiz says she has seen skin cancers develop shortly after tattooing: “There have been many types of coincidental skin cancers reported, such as melanoma, basal cell carcinoma, and squamous cell carcinoma,” she says. “When it happens so quickly, just a couple weeks after, it makes you wonder.”

The authors of the European report consider it coincidental when skin tumors appear at tattoo sites, but they conclude that it’s a link that should be further studied.

What You Can Do

Should you avoid tattoos? Right now, too little is known to say for certain. Ortiz and Burris suggest that you make sure you really want a tattoo before you commit, and find a reputable place that keeps things clean and sterile.

Says Ortiz: “At this point, it’s hard to say if tattooing is safe. It’s buyer beware.”

They also point out that once you’ve got a tattoo, it’s with you for life, for better or worse.

“Don’t think that if you don’t like it, you can just laser it away,” Burris warns. “It’s quite expensive and quite painful to have a tattoo removed, and there are some colors that are just not that responsive to lasers.”

The FDA also provides these tips:

  • Consumers and tattoo artists should know where their materials come from and should be able to identify and contact the manufacturer in case side effects happen.
  • Be especially wary of products that don’t carry a brand or the name and place of business of the manufacturer or distributor.
  • If you get a tattoo, watch the area closely and talk to your doctor if you have any signs of a rash or think you might have a reaction or infection where you have a tattoo.
  • Consumers should select a tattoo artist who is licensed and practices sanitary methods.

Sources

SOURCES:

European Commission Joint Research Centre: “Safety of Tattoos and Permanent Make-Up.”

Katy Burris, MD, dermatologist, Northwell Health, Manhasset, NY.

Arisa Ortiz, MD, director of laser and cosmetic dermatology; assistant clinical professor of dermatology, University of California, San Diego.

Charles Zwerling, MD, ophthalmologist, Goldsboro Eye Clinic; president, American Academy of Micropigmentation.

Lauren Sucher, spokeswoman, FDA.

© 2016 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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Sri Lanka deports British tourist for her Buddha tattoo

(Reuters) – Sri Lanka on Thursday deported a British tourist for having a tattoo of Buddha on her arm which a court said was an insult to the island’s main religion.

Legally, there is no ban on a Buddha tattoo in Sri Lanka, but the predominantly Buddhist nation is very sensitive about its religion.

Naomi Coleman, a 37-yar-old nurse left on a London-bound flight after being detained since her arrival on Monday from neighboring India.

“I just want to get out of this place. I have come twice to Sri Lanka, but I have never faced this with my tattoo,” Coleman told Reuters by telephone shortly before she was deported.

“If there is a rule like this, Sri Lankan authorities should clearly say that Buddha tattoos are banned. I am a practicing Buddhist and Buddhism is all about compassion and kindness.”

Buddhism is accorded the “foremost place” in Sri Lanka’s constitution and about 70 percent of the island’s 20 million people are Buddhist.

Authorities spotted Coleman’s tattoo upon her arrival in Sri Lanka.

Senior immigration official Chulananda Perera said the court had decided to deport Coleman partly because she could have been “vulnerable” if allowed to stay.

“Some Sri Lankans could get offended,” Perera told Reuters.

It was not the first time a tourist with such a tattoo has run into trouble in Sri Lanka. In 2013, authorities denied entry to a British man for his tattoo of Buddha.

(Additional reporting by Shihar Aneez; Editing by Robert Birsel)


Reuters: Oddly Enough

Smoking, Ink Color Affect Laser Tattoo Removal

Sept. 21, 2012 — Regret getting that Chinese character tattoo that turned out to be gibberish? Can’t face turning 30 with the “Hello Kitty” tat you got on a whim a decade ago?

You’re not alone.

Studies suggest that a third to half of people who get tattoos end up wanting them gone, and now laser technology makes it possible for those who can afford it. Maybe.

New research finds that the success of laser tattoo removal may depend on some surprising things, such as whether the unwanted ink is on the skin of a smoker.

Tattoo Removal Less Successful for Some

In one of the first studies to examine the issue, researchers in Italy identified key characteristics of successful tattoo removal.

They confirmed that large tattoos are harder to remove than small ones, and that yellow, blue, and green dyes are more resistant to removal than black and red ones.

Other characteristics associated with poorer results were less well-known, says study co-author and dermatologist Luigi Naldi, MD.

The study revealed that:

  • Smokers tended to have poorer results than non-smokers.
  • Older tattoos tended to be harder to remove than newer ones.
  • Tattoos on the feet and legs were harder to remove than those on other parts of the body.
  • Outcomes were better when laser sessions were spaced at least eight weeks apart.

“Some people want tattoos removed almost immediately after getting them and others want them removed years later when their lifestyles have changed,” Naldi says.

Removing a Tattoo Will Cost You

Although removing an unwanted tattoo is possible, the process is neither quick nor cheap.

“I have people tell me all the time that they only spent around $ 100 for their tattoo, and I tell them it’s going to cost a whole lot more to remove it,” says dermatologist Amy Derick, MD, who performs 30 to 50 laser removals a month in her suburban Chicago practice.

She uses a device known as the Q-switched laser, which is more effective than other lasers at breaking up the ink in a tattoo so that it can be flushed away by the body’s immune system.

Most tattoos take 10 to 12 sessions to remove, at $ 100 to $ 500 per session, she says.

Derick estimates the cost of the typical tattoo removal at $ 2,000 to $ 3,000.

Study Findings Surprising, Dermatologist Says

Derick says many findings in the study surprised her, including the fact that older tattoos are harder to remove than newer ones.

Naldi says this appears to be the case because over time the ink sinks deeper down into the skin and fat, where it is harder for the laser to reach.

He adds that smoking may hamper ink removal by inhibiting immune system function.

The study included 352 people who had their tattoos removed with the Q-switched laser.

In about half the cases, the tattoos were successfully removed after 10 sessions. Three times out of four, they were removed by session 15. Smoking lowered the chance of successful tattoo removal in 10 sessions by nearly 70%.

The study appears in the Archives of Dermatology.

Thirty-six percent of gen-nexters between the ages of 18 and 25 in the U.S. and 40% of gen-Xers, between the ages of 26 and 40 have tattoos, according to a Pew Research poll.

Derick says the majority of the removals she performs are on very conspicuous parts of the body, such as the face, neck, and hands.

Inked names and other tributes to long-lost loves and friends are among the most common targets for removal, as are topical tattoos and those that are badly executed, she says.

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‘Electronic Tattoo’ May Help Monitor Patients

Researchers See a Variety of Medical Applications for Ultra-Thin Electronics

By Moira Dower
WebMD Health News

Reviewed by Roger Henderson, MD

Aug. 15, 2011 — Ultra-thin electronics, which can be placed on the skin as easily as a temporary tattoo, could pave the way for patient monitoring systems that would avoid the need for bulky equipment.

In one study, the adhesive patch was applied to a person’s chest to pick up electrical signals produced by the heart. The measurements agreed “remarkably well” with those produced by a hospital electrocardiogram, according to the researchers.

John Rogers, PhD, and colleagues at the University of Illinois and other institutions in the U.S., Singapore, and China, have developed a system “of epidermal electronics” that almost exactly match the properties of the skin.

The patch contains electronic monitors that are integrated onto a water-soluble polyester backing (elastomer). It is attached to the body by brushing it with water. Weak forces of attraction between the skin and the backing cause the patch to stick to the skin like super-adhesive cling film. The patch is extremely thin — less than the diameter of a human hair.

“The skin represents one of the most natural places to integrate electronics. As the largest organ in the body, and our primary sensory mode of interaction with the world, it plays a special role,” Rogers says.

In their study, reported in Science, the researchers note that the patch has been worn effectively for 24 hours without irritating the skin. However, because surface cells in the skin are constantly being shed and renewed, a new one would have to be attached at least every two weeks. The patch also still needs to be tested with range of skin conditions, from dry to sweaty.

The technology is being developed for a range of medical and non-medical applications. In another study, a patch incorporating a microphone was applied to a person’s throatand the signal fed to a computer. The computer recognized four different words (up, down, left, and right), suggesting that the technology could eventually be used to help people with some disabilities control computers, the researchers say.

“Ultimately, we think that [our] efforts can blur the distinction between electronics and biology,” Rogers says.

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