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JOURNAL ARTICLE
REVIEW

Tattooing and various piercing: anaesthetic considerations

Frédéric J Mercier, Marie-Pierre Bonnet
Current Opinion in Anaesthesiology 2009, 22 (3): 436-441
19384230

PURPOSE OF REVIEW: Body art is increasing since the 1990s. Anaesthesiologists would be more and more confronted to patient with tattooing or piercing, or both. This review discusses the anaesthetic potential risks and complications observed with tattooing and piercing, their management and prevention.

RECENT FINDINGS: Airway management during anaesthesia is of particular interest with oral jewelry. Patients often refuse to remove their piercing for fear of tract closure. There are no serious complications reported after epidural puncture through a tattoo, although any long-term consequence cannot be discarded yet. Even theoretical concerns are more and more debated.

SUMMARY: Oral and nasal piercing is of particular concern because of the risks of swallowing and aspiration. Consequently, patients should be advised to remove piercing before anaesthesia. Emergency situations are especially risky and anaesthesiologists should be aware of the piercing removal techniques. In case of piercing loss, radiographies and fiberoptic endoscopy of the upper airways and digestive tracts should be performed to eliminate aspiration or swallowing of the foreign body. Epidurals should not be denied to parturients with lumbar tattooing. However, it seems still prudent to avoid direct tattoo puncture or when unavoidable, to nick the skin prior to inserting the needle through the tattoo.

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