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Back Tattoos and Spine Surgery – What You Need to Know

Do back tattoos cause problems with spine surgery?

back tattoo

So, you’ve got a back tattoo and you fall into the small percentage of spine patients who will need surgery. What do you need to know?

Back tattoos can potentially cause problems during spine surgery, as the tattoo ink can interfere with imaging used during the procedure, and make it tougher  for the surgeon to accurately see the spinal anatomy. Additionally, tattoo ink can cause skin irritation or an allergic reaction when exposed to certain surgical instruments or dyes used during the procedure.

What tattoo ink colors cause the most problems for imaging?

Tattoo ink that contains iron oxide pigments, such as black and brown inks, can cause the most problems. These inks can interfere with certain imaging techniques, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), by creating a distortion on the images. This can make it difficult for medical professionals to accurately see the underlying anatomy. Other factors, such as the location, size, and age of the tattoo, as well as the type and strength of the imaging equipment, can also impact the visibility of tattoos on imaging studies.

Do small back tattoos covering the spine cause the same problems as large back tattoos?

The size of a back tattoo does not necessarily determine if it will cause problems during medical procedures, including spine surgery. Factors such as the location of the tattoo, the type of ink used, and the strength of the imaging equipment used can all play a role in how well the tattoo is visible on imaging studies. That being said, smaller tattoos are generally less likely to cause problems during medical procedures compared to larger tattoos, because they contain less ink and take up less space on the back.

Will you have to get your back tattoo removed before having spine surgery?

Whether or not to remove a back tattoo before having spine surgery depends on several factors, including the size and location of the tattoo, the type of ink used, and the type of procedure being performed. In general, having a back tattoo removed prior to spine surgery is not necessary, but it may be recommended in some cases to minimize potential complications during the procedure.

If you are concerned about the impact of your back tattoo on your spine surgery, it’s best to discuss this with your doctor. He or she can provide you with personalized guidance and help you make an informed decision based on your specific circumstances.


*Please Note: Information on this site or any recommended sites should not be used as a diagnosis or a substitute for talking with your doctor. Always talk with your doctor about diagnosis and treatment information.
Blue Distinction Center for Spine Surgery