May 1962

A Technique for the Removal of Gunpowder Tattoos

Author Affiliations

Chief, Surgical Service, U.S. Army Hospital. Fort Carson, Colo.

Arch Surg. 1962;84(5):515. doi:10.1001/archsurg.1962.01300230031007

The explosion of gunpowder in proximity to exposed skin surfaces can result in the ingraining of numerous pigmented particles in the dermis. The cosmetic defect of such tattooing, if extensive, can be great. Similar particulate matter embedded in the skin following abrasive contact of skin areas with hard, dirty surfaces can be removed by brushing the anesthetized wound with a stiff brush. However, gunpowder tattooing, because of its depth in and intimate adherence to the dermis, can be completely resistant to such brushing, as well as to other direct methods of removal.

In the course of treating a case of extensive gunpowder tattooing of the face, a technique for removal of the embedded particles was evolved. This technique facilitated the removal of more than 600 separate conglomerations of pigmented matter from the forehead, eyelids, nose, cheeks, and ears in a reasonable period of time, with virtually no residual scarring. Because

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