Views & Reviews Drug Tales and Other Stories

Ink spots: are tattoos useful?

BMJ 2011; 343 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.d6455 (Published 11 October 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;343:d6455
  1. Ike Iheanacho, editor, Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin
  1. iiheanacho{at}bmjgroup.com

Once they were useful. It wasn’t that they provided obvious diagnostic pointers. Indeed, their presence was often unrelated to the patient’s presenting complaints. But as a way into exploring an individual’s life and circumstances, tattoos could be invaluable.

Perhaps you’ve seen the (increasingly rare) type that identifies an Auschwitz survivor. Small and typically blurred, these ugly marks have a chilling effect. And having recognised one, just recording “Nil relevant” in the person’s social history could be considered negligent. Like no other single clinical feature, these emblems told you a lot …

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