DURHAM — They are the faded souvenirs of your questionable judgement, unbridled revelry, and/or dissolved relationships. But if you thought you’d be stuck with your bad tattoos forever—or face the pain and potential scarring of laser removal—take heart: A new robot-guided laser removal system being developed by the Brain Tool Laboratory at Duke aims to make the process quick and painless.
The Brain Tool Laboratory, which is housed within Duke Robotics, seems an unlikely birthplace for a tattoo removal system. Duke neurosurgeon and mechanical engineering and materials science (MEMS) faculty member Patrick Codd directs the lab, which primarily develops robot-guided laser surgical systems.
Using preoperative MRIs as roadmaps, the systems can precisely scalpel away targeted tissue—or even vaporize it, if the chosen laser is powerful enough. But Weston Ross, who earned his PhD in MEMS at Duke and who is now a postdoctoral scholar in the university’s Department of Neurosurgery, said that targeting dermatological ailments, such as tattoo removal, has expanded how the lab’s laser technology can be applied.
“With our robotic scalpel system, we can more precisely locate and treat the tattoos, without overshooting and damaging surrounding tissue, which happens too much with current handheld laser systems,” said Ross.