Tattoos and the Cosmetics of Back Surgery

Oct 21, 2014 @ 05:43 PM — by Aron D Rovner, MD 

Over the past several years I have seen more patients being treated for back problems, with concerns of back tattoos and the appearance of the scar on their back. I treat about 10 to 15 patients per year with tattoos on their back. It is very common that the incision for back surgery will go through the middle of a lower back tattoo. Some patients have avoided treatment because they are concerned that their tattoos would be ruined.

​​​​​​​I have several ways of addressing these concerns. First, when patients need back surgery, I use the smallest incision possible, and a minimally invasive approach. This means I am able to do back surgery with an incision of just a few inches. Of course this all depends on the type of surgery that has to be done, and the particular patient. Aside from the size of the incision, I pay careful attention to close the skin in thin layers that minimizes the chances of infections and blood clots. This allows for quicker healing. I also place sutures below the margin of the skin, with the goal of a cosmetic scar. Scarring has a lot to do with genetics as well. With rare exception, sutures don’t have to be removed. This is another big concern of patients, as there is often a fear of having sutures removed. By paying careful attention to aligning the margins of the tattoos, my patients have been satisfied with the appearance of their tattoos when the skin has healed.

Some of the recent tattoos that I had to restore were dragons, roses, butterflies, and English, and Chinese letters, and other designs. On a few occasions, the patients went for touch ups, when back surgery was fully healed. For anyone suffering with back problems, whether it is a herniated disc, scoliosis, lumbar stenosis, or any number of back problems, if you have a tattoo, or are worried about the cosmetics, this should not be the major concern.