Surgical Excision for Unwanted Tattoos

Surgical excision – also called surgical removal – is a more invasive option for tattoo removal.

Some small tattoos might be good candidates for surgical removal, while others are considered too large to remove with a scalpel. The dermatologic surgeon removes the tattoo using a scalpel and closes the wound with stitches. This technique proves highly effective in removing some tattoos and allows the surgeon to remove the inked areas with great precision.

Why choose surgical excision for tattoo removal

  • Highly effective for smaller tattoos
  • Offers improved precision

Possible risks

Side effects are generally minor, but may include:

  • Skin discoloration
  • Infection
  • Lack of complete pigment removal
  • Some scarring
  • A raised or thickened scar may appear three to six months after the tattoo is removed

Estimated cost

The cost for surgical tattoo removal can range from several hundred dollars up to thousands of dollars, depending on several factors:

  • The size of the tattoo
  • The type of anesthesia used
  • Whether skin grafts are used

Because tattoo removal is considered an aesthetic or cosmetic procedure in nature, it generally is not covered by medical insurance.

How to prepare for the procedure

Before the procedure, the doctor will most likely review the patient’s medical history and conduct a physical exam. This is the time for the patient and doctor to discuss expectations, potential risks and outcomes of the procedure. 
A dermatologic surgeon will give patients a set of pre-operative instructions. Avoiding sun exposure several weeks before surgery is critical. Prior to surgery, it is also important to refrain from taking any blood-thinning medications that contain ibuprofen or aspirin. A local anesthetic will be injected to numb the treatment area before surgery begins. Be sure to ask your doctor about any questions you have regarding the pre-operative instructions.

What to expect after the procedure

A patient’s skin may feel sunburned and tight. Doctors may prescribe a moisturizing cream or lotion and direct patients to avoid the sun. When outside, it is important to wear a sunscreen with an SPF factor of 30 or higher to avoid excessive scarring. The application of cold packs and taking prescribed pain medications or antibiotics will assist in continued recovery.