Are epidurals incompatible with tattoos?

Pregnancy is a unique experience that has a set of challenges. One of the big doubts is if you can put the epidural with a tattoo in the lower back. Is it a myth or does it really carry serious health risks?

Those women with lower back tattoos may wonder if epidurals will still be safe. Here’s everything you need to know about getting an epidural on tattooed skin, including when it’s best to decide against it.

How does an epidural work?

An epidural is a pain-relieving medical procedure that is often used to help women in labor or post-surgical patients to have fewer painful symptoms. Also people with chronic pain and inflammation can also get epidural injections to help decrease pain. In most cases, epidurals are done during labor (but before delivery) or directly after surgery.

It is a relatively painless procedure designed to block the pain signals that travel from the spine to the brain. The pain-relieving effects of an epidural can begin to be noticeable after just 10 minutes.

A catheter-based epidural provides a complete and useful anesthetic conduit for a person’s spine. The spinal column contains various bundles of nerves and functions as the main pathway of the nervous system. Using anesthetics to block nerve signals can completely prevent pain without causing patients to lose all feeling in the lower body. This allows someone under epidurals to walk and move slowly, while remaining immune to stronger pain signals.

Can a tattoo interfere with an epidural?

Most women with lower back or lower back tattoos can safely and effectively receive an epidural before giving birth. However, there may be other, unrelated reasons why a doctor or nurse may decide not to apply it.

In some cases, a lower back tattoo could be a problem for this injection. There are two main reasons a medical professional may judge an epidural to be unsafe if:

  • The lower back tattoo is fresh and still healing.
  • The tattoo is raised, reddish, scaly, or infected.

Although small amounts of tattoo ink can migrate through the bloodstream or lymphatic system after a tattoo session, these amounts are usually minuscule and harmless. An epidural performed on recently infected or tattooed skin could lead to deeper infections and complications related to the spine or nerves.

If we are about to give birth or go into surgery, it is best to postpone any tattoo sessions that we have scheduled. Introducing the ink after having a baby or successfully recovering from surgery could help reduce the risk of unexpected infection or blood-borne disease such as HIV.

Some people may also develop a small epidural scar near the catheter insertion point, especially after back surgery. This scar tissue will change the appearance of any tattoo on the skin. As such, a healthy lower back tattoo may not affect an epidural, but an epidural can damage a tattoo.

mujer con tatuajes y sin epidural

exceptional cases

If we have a lower back tattoo and are considering getting an epidural before the birth of a child or after surgery, the doctor may choose to modify plans to accommodate the tattoo. Most anesthesiologists will pierce an area of skin without ink along the lower back.

Any gaps in the tattoo design could ensure that the doctor can perform a standard epidural. Although the spinal area is completely tattooed, the anesthesiologist may attempt to locate a more feasible site. However, as we said before, there would only be a risk if the tattoo is recent or infected. In cases of healthy tattoos, there is no danger of placing an epidural .

In the worst case scenario, a medical professional may find it unsafe or impractical to administer an epidural to a heavily tattooed lower back. Fortunately, an epidural is not the only option for pregnant women or post-surgical patients. Non-opioid pain relievers, nitrous oxide, and alternative forms of local anesthetics may still be an option.

Possible dangers

The main risk of epidural anesthesia with a lumbar tattoo in poor condition is internal infection . Infected or scabby tattoos are usually because they are fresh. This assumes that the pregnant woman has had it done shortly before giving birth, without taking into account the risks it may pose to the fetus. Specifically, experts warn of an increased chance of contracting HIV .

However, the main danger of accepting an injection through a wound is infection. This could compromise the health of the nerves and the spine. Although it is a common practice to relieve pain in childbirth, many anesthesiologists report the risk of this injection and its possible side effects. If to this is added the crossing of a tattoo in poor condition, the risk is multiplied.

Even so, health professionals will refuse to give an epidural if they see bad skin. Previously, the state of the lumbar tattoo should have been commented on, since it will have happened in the weeks prior to the pregnancy. Even tattoo artists will advise pregnant women not to take the risk shortly before delivery. Let’s also remember that the skin is very tight, so it is better to do the tattoo after giving birth, when the skin has regained its usual position. In this way we will avoid deformations.