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MRI safety when one has a tattoo design or permanent makeup method is a question considering that the infamous “Dear Abby” letter back in the 1980’s. A patient with permanent eyeliner had an MRI and felt a “heating up” or burning sensation during the MRI procedure. Is this cause for alarm, or a reason to NOT have an MRI if you have tattoos?

Magnetic Resonance Imaging was first discovered by Felix Block and Edward Purcell in 1946, and both were awarded the Nobel Prize in 1952. Within the late 70’s, the process began evolving into the technology that we use for diagnosing illnesses in medicine today.

People have decorated themselves for hundreds of years by way of makeup, jewelry, clothing, and traditional and cosmetic tattooing. Procedures including eyeliner, eyebrows, lips, eye shadow, and cheek blush are commonly carried out in the U.S. and round the world. Other procedures known as “para-medical tattooing” are carried out on scars (camouflage) and cancer of the breast survivors who have had reconstructive surgery using a nipple “graft” that is with a lack of color. In this type of paramedical work, the grafted nipple produced by the surgeon is tattooed an all natural color to fit the healthy breast.

Magnetic resonance imaging is routinely performed, particularly for diagnosing head, neck and brain regions where permanent cosmetics like eyeliner are commonly applied. Because of few reports of burning sensations inside the tattooed area during an MRI, some medical technicians have questioned whether they should perform MRI procedures on patients with make up permanent.

Dr. Frank G. Shellock has conducted laboratory and clinical investigations in magnetic resonance imaging safety for more than two decades, and has addressed the concerns noted above. Research was conducted of 135 subjects who underwent MR imaging after having permanent cosmetics applied. Of those, only two individuals (1.5%) experienced problems associated with MR imaging. One subject reported a sensation of ‘slight tingling’ and the other subject reported a sensation of ‘burning’, both transient in general. Based on Dr. Shellock’s research, traditional tattoos caused more problems with burning sensations in the community from the tattoo.

It is actually interesting to remember that most allergy symptoms to traditional tattoos start to occur when an individual is subjected to heat, like exposure to the sun, or time spent in a hot steam room, or jacuzzi tub. Specific ingredients in the tattoo pigments such as cadmium yellow have a tendency to cause irritation in some individuals. The result is swelling and itching in certain regions of the tattoo. This usually subsides when contact with the temperature source ends. If the swelling continues, then this topical cream can be found from the physician (usually cortizone cream) to help relieve the irritation.

Dr. Shellock recommends that those who have permanent makeup procedures should advise their MRI technician. Because “artifacts” can display up on the results, it is necessary for that healthcare professional to understand why you have the artifacts. These artifacts are predominantly associated with the presence of pigments that use iron oxide or other kind of gffuaj and occur in the immediate section of the tattoo or permanent makeup. Additionally, the technician can give the individual a cold compress (a wet wash cloth) to use throughout the MRI procedure within the rare case of the burning sensation in the tattooed area.

In summary, it is actually clear to view that the benefits of having an MRI outweigh the slight chance of a reaction from permanent makeup or traditional tattooing during the MRI. The art and science of permanent makeup goes by many people different names: micropigmentation, permanent cosmetics, derma pigmentation, intradermal cosmetics, dermagraphics and cosmetic tattoos. Since the procedures related to permanent makeup become more main stream the public grows more aware of the rewards, especially for individuals who suffer from illness, disease, injury or scarring. Within my recent article “Constructing a Bridge: Cosmetic Plastic Surgery and Micropigmentation” I explored the connection between plastic surgery and permanent makeup. I would now like to discuss how permanent makeup can also work included in the solution for a number of health conditions.