The Wall Street Journal is raising issue about potential neurotoxicitiy of tattoo dyes, if and when the epidural needle picks a small amount from subcutaneous tissue, and carries it into the epidural space. There is probably more spin to this story than truth, but read on:
In 2002, a pair of Canadian anesthesiologists published a report that questioned whether administering an epidural through such a tattoo could be risky. The doctors speculated that complications like inflammation or nerve damage may arise if the needle pulled a bit of dyed skin along with it, and then deposited it into the nerve-rich region outside the spinal column.
The small study of three women — which concluded that there wasn’t enough evidence to determine if the practice is safe or not — set off a mini-wave of panic among expectant moms. After the report was picked up by Canadian television, women began sharing their concerns on pregnancy Web sites and chat rooms. In July, a story on the topic appeared in Pregnancy magazine, further fueling anxiety and sending many women to their practitioners for advice.
Tattoos, of course, can be risky. Infection and diseases such as hepatitis due to unsterile equipment are known complications. Recently, scattered reports of tattooed patients getting burned during magnetic resonance imaging have surfaced. (Inks may contain metals, which could react during an MRI.)
A 2006 study in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology found that nearly one-quarter of Americans ages 18 to 50 are tattooed. Among them, nearly 20% of the women have tattoos on their lower back, researchers reported.
More from the Wall Street Journal…