A project for the ASAPS Emerging Trends Committee in 1995 involved my evaluation of an inexpensive portable but effective infra-red light tattoo removal system. After numerous modifications the technique was established. Beginning with the 12 active Texas state supported programs and our satellite programs in Honduras, which has treated over 20,000 individuals, and modifications for private practices, the infra-red program has proved its worth. In contrast to laser the cost is minimal, and laser precautions and personnel, which add to the cost of tattoo removal, are not necessary. When presented as a teaching course for ASAPS, the common query in the respondents papers was “why is this not in the main presentation format for the entire membership?” While the end results are indistinguishable from those of laser, the TOBIL (tattoo obliteration by infra-red light) program differs only in that preventive measures are important. Sound plastic surgery knowledge as well as guidelines established by our group are followed closely. Local anesthetic is required. Plastic surgeons may provide this community service at minimal cost, easily affordable to charities, or may fill an unexpectedly large need in the general population in private practice as well. The many individuals who must have tattoo removal for job advancement, induction into the military, or for social or psychological reasons cannot afford the necessary costs or the time required for laser removal.
I will present our experiences over the past 10 years and the data that was gathered in the first 3000 patients in 1999 plus our estimates and impressions for the ongoing programs in the State of Texas and in plastic surgeons offices in several states. The interest expressed in the program by the Juvenile Justice Department in Washington is to receive funding for 40 additional programs, which we hope, will be overseen by plastic surgeons.