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Health // Doctor in the House
Rasa Fournier

Erase Stubborn Tattoo Ink

Dr. W.Y. Chung
Owner of Vein and Skin Center of Hawaii and InkOff.MD

Where did you receive your schooling/training?

I attended medical school at Loyola University of Chicago.

How long have you been in practice?

I obtained my medical degree in 1997, practiced emergency medicine for 10 years and have been in private practice since 2007.

What is your specialty?

I specialize in treatment of veins (phlebology), aesthetic lasers and minimally invasive cosmetic procedures. I’ve just launched InkOff.MD, which offers the latest in tattoo removal.

How much of a demand is there for tattoo removal?

Statistically, 45 million of the U.S. population has tattoos. There’s been an increase of about 32 percent in patients wanting to get their tattoos removed. About 40 percent of that is job-related. We have a lot of patients here on the island who have a lot of tattoos, so I felt like it would be beneficial. We’ve already been performing tattoo removal for the past two years. The problem was that there would be incomplete removal of the tattoo and it would typically take about one to two years to remove. After about a year, some would just stop treatment because of the length of treatment.

On our website, tattoo removal was the No. 1 searched item. That’s when we decided we needed to offer a better laser for our patients.

What are the reasons why people want to have their tattoos removed?

Nationally, job placement is the No. 1 reason, followed by removing a partner’s name. Most of our patients are treated for jobrelated reasons. There are a few patients who desire to remove the tattoo and then place a new tattoo over the same area.

What is the traditional method of tattoo removal?

With the old method, tattoo removal would take one to two years and about 15 to 20 treatments, and one couldn’t really completely remove the tattoo. You’d still see a shadow most often. The old lasers had difficulty removing green and blue ink colors completely. Also, it would cause more pain and problems with the skin afterward, like hypo-pigmentation and hyper-pigmentation, and could cause some scarring of the skin. Hypo means the area would look white, and the reverse is it would look dark.

What is unique about the new PicoSure laser technology you’re using?

The new technology was just launched recently but it took about 10 years to develop. It’s completely a different way to treat tattoos. The old way used a longer pulse duration, which is like having a longer on-off switch. The longer the on-off switch, the slower it takes to remove the tattoo and the greater the cause for more adverse effects to occur because of heat generation. The new laser has an ultra short onoff switch, resulting in faster clearance of the tattoo and minimal adverse effects. It only effects the pigment. There’s not a lot of heat generated, and instead the pulse duration is more like a pressure wave – which Cynosure calls PressureWave technology. It shatters the tattoo pigment even smaller, resulting in faster removal of the tattoo.

PicoSure is named after the picosecond pulse duration. The old lasers have pulse durations of nanoseconds, which results in slower removal of the tattoo pigment. The PicoSure has been developed using picosecond pulse durations, which is 100 times shorter than the current nanosecond technology.

How long does the new process take?

It takes about four to five months to remove, which is roughly about four treatments.

Does the skin look mostly normal by the time you’re done?

Yes, the skin will look normal afterward. In some cases, the skin may have transient hypo-pigmentation, but that resolves completely. The new laser can completely remove tattoos and it can remove the shadow, as well.

It removes the stubborn blue and green pigmentation left over after using the old method?

Yes, it can remove that nicely.

Does PicoSure treat other body marks as well?

Yes. Because it targets pigment, it also can target sun spots very well, and some pigmented birthmarks.

Anything you’d like to add?

Our machine is only the fourth in the world right now, and we’re the only ones offering it in Hawaii. We just had a webinar with the physicians who have been doing research on the PicoSure for the past two years. The patients they followed had a lot fewer complications with faster clearance of the tattoo pigment. They also stated that the current lasers used are now old technology.

Patients should know whether an office is using the old laser to remove tattoos and if it is, don’t even get treated. Patients need to find a laser center that has the PicoSure laser, otherwise you’re receiving inadequate treatment.

PicoSure is revolutionary. I think it’s going to change a lot about how lasers are made in the future. It was just FDA approved in December. The only centers in the world where PicoSure is currently offered are in Boston, New York, Los Angeles and at InkOff.MD. It was just introduced at a dermatological conference in March. We want to make sure that patients know about it now so that they don’t have to receive the old treatments anymore. It hurts and it takes forever, it really does. It is a disservice to patients when you are offering old laser technology to remove tattoos.

My current patients all have been switched over to the new PicoSure laser for further treatments. Why offer something outdated when we have a laser that is better for our patients?

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