Medical tattoo

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A medical tattoo is a tattoo used for indicating a medically relevant condition or body location.[1] Medical tattoos can be used for a number of reasons:

  • As a warning that a patient suffers from a chronic disease or allergy that can exacerbate suddenly and that will require immediate specific treatment; one example is in the case of diabetes mellitus,[1] in which unconsciousness may be a sign of low or high blood glucose level.[2]
  • As an aid in radiotherapy.[3] In order to minimize damage to surrounding tissues, the radiotherapist seeks to keep the irradiated field as small as possible. Marking a number of points on the body with tattoos can aid radiotherapists in adjusting the beam properly.
  • During breast reconstruction after mastectomy (removal of the breast for treatment of cancer), or breast reduction surgery. Tattooing is sometimes used to replace the areola which has been removed during mastectomy, or to fill in areas of pigment loss which may occur during breast reduction performed with a free nipple graft technique.[4]
  • Similar to dog tags, members of the U.S. military have their vital information tattooed to them, usually on the rib cage below the armpit; they are referred to as "meat tags".[5][6][7]


  1. ^ a b Kluger N, Aldasouqi S (May 2012). "A new purpose for tattoos: Medical alert tattoos". Presse Med 42 (2): 134–7. doi:10.1016/j.lpm.2012.04.009. PMID 22647627. 
  2. ^ Richard S. Irwin; James M. Rippe (2008). Irwin and Rippe's intensive care medicine. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. pp. 1256–. ISBN 978-0-7817-9153-3. Retrieved 4 December 2012. 
  3. ^ Greer PB, Mortensen TM (1997). "Anterior-posterior treatment localization in pelvic radiotherapy: tattoos or fixed couch-to-isocentre distance". Med Dosim 22 (1): 43–6. PMID 9136107. 
  4. ^ Potter S, Barker J, Willoughby L, Perrott E, Cawthorn SJ, Sahu AK (June 2007). "Patient satisfaction and time-saving implications of a nurse-led nipple and areola reconstitution service following breast reconstruction". Breast 16 (3): 293–6. doi:10.1016/j.breast.2006.12.004. PMID 17241786. 
  5. ^ Kristin Wilson Keppler (18 August 2010). "The man who makes sure dead marines get home". BBC News. Retrieved 22 March 2012. 
  6. ^ Katherine Kington (27 February 2012). "Medical tattoos on the rise". WTVM. Retrieved 22 March 2012. "Donny says much like an Army dog tag, the soldiers call them meat tags." 
  7. ^ Reilly, Rick (17 February 2003). "Where Have All the Young Men Gone?". Time (Time Inc.) 161 (2-10). Retrieved 22 March 2012. "A lot of 'em are young and scared to be going over," says Rachael Mays of the Sleeping Dragon tattoo parlor. "They come in for their meat tags. You know, dog tags for the skin. Their name, rank, serial number, religion, blood type and gas-mask size. They want 'em in case they're blown in half. Then at least some part of them can come back to their folks." 

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