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New Research Reveals Need for Doctors to Know About Medical Tattoos

New Research Reveals Need for Doctors to Know About Medical Tattoos


May 18, 2009

More people are turning to a new trend to let others know about their medical condition – tattooing. A case report presented today at the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (AACE) 18th Annual Meeting & Clinical Congress shed light on this new phenomenon, while urging discussion from the medical community.

The report’s primary author, Saleh Aldasouqi, MD, FACE, first discovered medical tattooing when Todd Walsh, a type 1 diabetes patient, came in for an evaluation and management of his diabetes. While performing a physical examination, Dr. Aldasouqi noticed a medical alert with the word ‘Diabetic’ tattooed on Walsh’s right forearm, just above the wrist.

Walsh has lived with diabetes since he was 22 months old. Growing up, he wore medical alert bracelets. While playing sports and other activities in his teens, the bracelets often broke. As he got older, Walsh began wearing the 14k medical medallion around his neck.

“I wore the medallion for ten years,” Walsh said. “But found that I needed to replace the pendant about every two and a half years.”

He figured each time he replaced the pendant, it cost about 150 dollars. He began looking for a more permanent solution – and settled on a tattoo.

“After trying all kinds of less efficient medical alerts like bracelets and necklaces, I found that a tattoo was a more permanent solution to let everyone know that I have diabetes,” Walsh said. “For me, it was simply a cost-saving method.”

Walsh told Dr. Aldasouqi that he had decided to get the tattoo on his own, without consulting with his physician first. He had it done at a professional tattoo parlor, where clean needles and tools were reportedly used.

Dr. Aldasouqi was surprised a few weeks later when he encountered a different patient – another well-educated, young man with long-standing type 1 diabetes – with a similar tattoo.

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