July 1986

Medical Identification

Author Affiliations

Charleston, SC

Arch Intern Med. 1986;146(7):1455. doi:10.1001/archinte.1986.00360190247049

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To the Editor.  —We frequently encounter patients with thoracic, abdominal, or pelvic surgical scars who have no recollection of what procedures have been performed, or who the surgeon was. Such information is often convenient, and, occasionally, critical, to the planning of another surgical procedure. Given that the population of America is both aging and mobile, and that patients are surviving far longer postoperatively—especially after gynecologic surgery for benign or for malignant disease—we have a modest proposal on behalf of surgeons practicing in clinics, hospitals, or emergency rooms.A minute tattoo, only a dot or a bar, or a combination of these, might be placed by the operating surgeon on the sides of a patient's toes, according to a nationally agreed on designation. For instance, a dot and a bar on the medial aspect of the second right toe might indicate "total abdominal hysterectomy/salpingo-oophorectomy"; a similar tattoo without the dot might

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