Short reports and correspondence| Volume 56, ISSUE 3, P312, April 2003

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Tattooing ears—a simple method

      Tattooing is often used in the initial stages of prominent ear correction. Whether it is performed to mark the proposed position of the anthelix and crura or to indicate cartilage incisions or existing folds, it commonly involves the use of a Simms needle dabbed in gentian violet, which is passed through the pinna and then dabbed again on the post-auricular surface before being withdrawn. Although this produces a reliable cartilage tattoo it does require an assistant and it may disperse ink on both skin surfaces obscuring skin markings.
      A simpler method involves the use of a straight silk suture. The suture is cut short leaving only a centimetre of silk attached. The short strand of silk only is then dipped in gentian violet stain. The needle is then passed through the pinna at the proposed points as usual, but then pulled all the way through allowing the silk to tattoo the cartilage in a controlled manner leaving a discrete skin mark.
      We have found this method can be performed single-handed. It produces clean and accurate tattoo marks.
      Yours faithfully,


      I. Al-Basri, Associate Specialist
      Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Wexham Park Hospital, Slough, UK
      V. Rose, Specialist Registrar
      St Andrews Centre for Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Chelmsford, UK.
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