Ask The Doctor: Dr. Brian Graham

Q: What are the risks and precautions an HHT patient should be aware of when getting a tattoo?

Dr. Brian Graham, Co-Director of University of Colorado HHT Center: I have come to the consensus that it should generally be safe. I'd recommend you not have a tattoo applied to a visible telangiectasia, as that may bleed quite a bit. Be sure that the skin was carefully cleaned at the site, such as with rubbing alcohol, to avoid any infection, and probably avoid areas that are less sterile such as in the pelvis.

If you have known pulmonary arteriovenous malformations (PAVMs), consider being extra careful by taking a single dose of an antibiotic at the time of the procedure, to avoid any bacteria released from the skin passing through a lung AVM and going to the brain or other places in the body and causing an infection.

As a more general precaution, make sure they use clean needles (to avoid getting infected with HIV or hepatitis) and stick to reputable places, rather than doing it “homemade."