September 18, 2007, - 9:35 am
By Debbie Schlussel
I’ve written a lot about tattoos over the years. And while I know quite a few of my readers have them (I guess they are the exceptions to my generalizations), you still gotta wonder about why anyone would put permanent marks on themselves. I’m glad my religion forbids me from getting one.
In my view, they’re more forgivable on men. But, as I’ve written, a woman who doesn’t take long to agree to repeatedly put a needle in her body, generally doesn’t take long before she acquiesces to putting other things into her body. In other words, she’s easy.
Now, there are more serious implications for those women with the “tramp stamp” marking their lower backs. Once they get pregnant, there is serious harm potential to themselves and their unborn child.
Wall Street Journal health columnist Rachel Zimmerman reports:
Pregnant women already have plenty to worry about. But now some doctors are pointing to another potential problem: tattoos.
The issue is whether it’s safe to stick a needle through a tattoo in the lower back for an epidural — an injection of painkilling medicine that can ease the discomfort of labor.
There has been an explosion in recent years in women’s lower-back tattoos — often ornate designs that take up a lot of surface area near the vertebrae where epidural needles are typically inserted.
In 2002, a pair of Canadian anesthesiologists published a report that questioned whether administering an epidural through such a tattoo could be risky. The doctors speculated that complications like inflammation or nerve damage may arise if the needle pulled a bit of dyed skin along with it, and then deposited it into the nerve-rich region outside the spinal column. . . .
A 2006 study in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology found that nearly one-quarter of Americans ages 18 to 50 are tattooed. [DS Translation: Dermatologists and plastic surgeons practicing laser removal will have an even more booming biz in a few years.] Among them, nearly 20% of the women have tattoos on their lower back, researchers reported. [DS Translation: At least 20% of American women are saying, "We'll be seeing each other come bar time."]
The national epidural rate is nearly 65% of the four million births a year in the U.S. . . .
The Food and Drug Administration says tattoo inks and pigments fall into categories that the agency regulates, but due to other health priorities, the agency hasn’t specifically approved any inks. Two FDA-backed studies are under way to evaluate possible adverse reactions to the ink, and ways to test it for toxicity.
Krzysztof Kuczkowski, chief of obstetric anesthesia at the University of California San Diego Medical Center, published an account in 2004 of a 34-year-old patient with tattoos covering her mid-lumbar area who received an epidural. Afterward she experienced unusual burning, tenderness and swelling where the epidural catheter had been placed. Dr. Kuczkowski believes the tattoo was the culprit. “It’s possible there’s a release of small particles that could contain metals or toxic compounds,” he says.
Anesthesiologist Mark Kostash, clinical professor at the University of Calgary in Alberta, says, “Nerves are so delicate and can be injured so easily, we want to minimize the risk that anything we do might cause damage.” He adds: “If it was me, and I had a tattoo, I’d say, ‘Go around it.’ ”
Anesthesiologists should try to avoid the tattoo. Or they can create a nick in the skin before the needle is stuck in, minimizing the chance of some skin getting pulled down with the injection. Finally, Dr. Douglas says, women should be told that while there is no proof complications will arise, there remains a potential risk.
Or better than going around the tattoo, here’s another suggestion for women who want to have a baby:
Don’t get a tattoo.
Tags: Alberta, American Academy of Dermatology, Anesthesiologist, Baby Wall Street Journal health columnist, catheter, chief, clinical professor, Debbie Schlussel, Food and Drug Administration, Her Baby Wall Street Journal health columnist, inflammation, Krzysztof Kuczkowski, Laser, Mark Kostash, Rachel Zimmerman, Risk, United States, University of Calgary in Alberta, University of California San Diego Medical Center