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How Transdermal Implants Work

        Culture | Body Art

Transdermal Procedure: In, Under, Through

The transdermal-implant process is invasive. It involves an incision, tissue separation and sutures. And if there are any actual medical doctors performing it, they're not advertising. The work is done by body artists, some highly skilled, some winging it [source: Stokes].

As described in blogs and wikis serving the extreme-body-mod community (and in photos not recommended for queasy readers), implanting a transdermal anchor goes much like this [sources: BMEzine Encyclopedia, Beyond Body Modification]:

  1. If local anesthetic is being (illegally) used, it's administered [source: Orden, Stokes].
  2. The artist marks the intended implant location on the skin, as well as another location about an inch (2.5 centimeters) away for the incision.
  3. With a scalpel, she makes a 1-2 inch (2.5-5 centimeter) incision and inserts a dermal elevator* either among or beneath the layers of skin (proper placement is controversial) [source: Larratt]. She pushes the dermal elevator through until it sits just beneath the marked implant point. The result is a "pocket" running from the incision to the marked implant point.
  4. Using the scalpel or a dermal punch (an instrument with a sharp, hollow circle at the tip), she cuts a hole in the skin down to the dermal elevator, which remains in place to protect underlying tissue while the hole is made.
  5. She inserts the transdermal anchor into the incision, moving it through the pocket until it arrives at the hole. The post is worked through the hole so it emerges outside the skin.
  6. She sutures the incision.

*Dermal elevators are common plastic-surgery tools used to lift and separate skin from underlying tissue. They look a little like metal spatulas. Not all cutters use a dermal elevator, but it's considered the right tool for the job -- as opposed to the butter knife, which some use instead [source: Stokes].

And all of this, um, art, is carried out by a cutter who may or may not possess any medical training, with equipment that may or may not be properly sterilized, and usually in a room in someone's house [source: Stokes].

What could possibly go wrong?

The transdermal implant procedure
The transdermal implant procedure
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