Vital Statistics
January 7, 2005 2:16 AM   Subscribe

I have worked with a few divers who have their blood type and sometimes other medical info tattooed on their forearm or elsewhere. Most were ex military. Can anyone think of any reasons, other than cosmetic, why this would not be a good idea?
posted by Yorrick to Health & Fitness (13 answers total)
In the UK, you wouldn't be allowed to give blood if you'd had a tattoo in the last 12 months.

I guess the question is whether having the tattoo would do any good in that would (non-military) medical personnel actually look for it? If not then it would largely be a waste of time/money/pins and needles.
posted by biffa at 4:05 AM on January 7, 2005

I guess, in theory at least, an accident could alter or damage the tattoo, leading to medical staff gaining a mistaken understanding of your details.
posted by daveg at 4:33 AM on January 7, 2005

Medical staff in Sweden (and I presume, everywhere else) check your bloodtype anyway, regardless if you tell them what it is, or have it on a dog-tag or tattoed - unless it's the official medical board dog-tag as those are theonly ones they trust.
posted by dabitch at 4:53 AM on January 7, 2005

Metal pigments in the inks can cause swelling and/or burning sensations during MRI scans.
In some instances, the contrast dye used in imaging scans can cause an allergic reaction.
posted by Smart Dalek at 4:58 AM on January 7, 2005

Smart Dalek, that's fascinating, especially since I've had both an MRI and a ct scan in the last 8 months. I don't have any tattoos, though.

I did feel naseous from the contrast dye, but I gather that's somewhat common anyway, as they told me to fast before showing up for the ct scan. I guess they don't like people puking on their million dollar equipment.
posted by cactus at 7:27 AM on January 7, 2005

Hey I was nauseated by contrast dye during an MRI or CT scan (I had both the same week, don't remember which this was) and the nurses acted like they'd never heard of such a thing. They practically told me that I was either making it up or imagining it. Hrmph. I don't have any tattoos.
posted by duck at 8:17 AM on January 7, 2005

I worked in a blood bank in the US (many years ago) and we always performed a blood typing on all cross matches when even on a quick match or a STAT. As a matter of fact we would even perform a type and match on autologous units (self donated).
posted by evilelf at 8:21 AM on January 7, 2005

there are different kinds of contrast dye. I remember getting a CAT some years ago (in Vancouver Canada), and was asked whether I had allergies to shellfish (and I think they also asked me about eggs). Depending on my answer, they would give me a different contrast dye.
posted by seawallrunner at 8:21 AM on January 7, 2005

Smart Dalek: I had to read your link a couple of times, because I'm all sorts of inked up, and the few MRIs I've had have never given me any problems. Eventually I caught the line near the bottom that said that it should only be an issue if you got your tattoo more than 20 years ago.

As far as Yorrick's question is concerned, I don't believe that any sort of medical information you tattoo on yourself will be considered as any real medical information due to the liabilities involved, especially in the case of blood types, medical issues, etc. A doctor may be able to give a more detailed answer, but with malpractice insurance the way it is, I can't see them doing anything other than 'by the book'.
posted by icey at 10:32 AM on January 7, 2005

Response by poster: Some interesting replies to my first post. Basically I was wondering if there was a simple test for the blood type in common use. I think it might be a good idea anyway if you were diabetic, epileptic, etc, but otherwise would be of limited use.

As for the MRI subtopic, I had one a few years ago, and I remember to release form I had to sign for the contrast dye had a line "Some people have adverse reactions to this dye, BUT the reactions are ONLY fatal in 1 in 50,000 cases." I remember thinking if everyone in my small city drank this dye, 3 people would die on average. I don't like those odds.
posted by Yorrick at 1:21 PM on January 7, 2005

It's not just that anyone using your blood or prepping blood for you will check your blood type anyway, it's that what we think of as blood type - ABO group and RH status - is so little information that it's almost useless. Blood typing checks you for far far more factors than that. If ex-military guys are doing it, I'm guessing that would have something to do with thinking it likely they'd be in some field medic shack where the bare minimum would be a better alternative than bleeding to death. So if you're not expecting to need blood under such conditions, it's probably irrelevant.
posted by caitlinb at 3:51 PM on January 7, 2005

Or, Yorrick, for the actual reason:

Special Forces are special because they're outside the Geneva convention..that's where they get their "special"ness from...because they're outside the convention, they're not "legal"...they're criminals placed inside a specific environment to do military missions for our country. If the mission goes south, they'll be disavowed and used as pawns in hostage situations, etc. They don't carry dogtags, in case of capture.

Becase they don't carry dogtags, many special forces members started tattooing the information on them so their bodies can be identified after they're killed. Most have it on their torso somewhere.

Enemy forces tend to think that people with this information tattooed on them are special forces, and will treat you as such, even if you're with the regular army. As a result, they will keep you seperate and torture you, etc., completely outside of the Geneva conventions. And everybody's okay with that because you're "Special" Forces...and it's part of the risk of the job.

So there's why you wouldn't want it on you. Say you get kidnapped or somethign while visiting Malaysia, and they see that you have your info tattooed on you. You might be in for a world of hurt.
posted by taumeson at 8:13 PM on January 7, 2005

Not that anyone will read this, by now, but the one person I know who actually was in a special forces unit was allowed in partially because he did not have any tattoos or identifying birthmarks or dental work. The 'real' special forces aren't suppsed to be traced back to the US under any circumstances, parents just get a "Your son was killed in a training accident" letter.

I'm guessing anyone with tats was probably an Army Ranger or similar level soldier. One who would likely see a medic if injured and needed medical attention.

Small bone to pick, I know...
posted by efalk at 9:36 PM on January 7, 2005

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