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Pocketing and Rejection Dermal Implants Dirty Little Secrets

In my first installment I covered the basic of what a piercing is, why the body accepts the jewelry and how the piercing is healed. With that covered, I thought I'd move on to experimental piercing related body modifications. I choice this subject because of a recent client that came in with a set of micro-dermal implants in the Helix of her ear. She had had them done only two weeks before and one of them was already rejecting. It had migrated to the point where the anchor was clearly visible through the skin and it needed to be removed. 

Now this is nothing new. In fact it is common place for Dermal Implant to migrate or reject but usually it can take a few years depending on the location and the amount of contact the area gets. What was odd was that when I asked her why she didn't get traditional set of Helix piercings. she told me that the piercer had talked her into Micro-Dermals. The piercer had told her that it was a better option than a traditional piercing. Now even with my limited knowledge of Dermal Implants, I knew that this person was not a good candidate for this. The tissue between the cartilage and the surface was very thin which increased the likelihood of rejection. Though the angle of the piercing would have been difficult to do, piercing the area has a higher success rate and she could have had the piercing for a life. Instead the jewelry had to be removed to avoid additional scaring. 

Granted I'm conservative and traditional when it comes to what piercings I will preform and what jewelry I will use but this is based on years and years of first hand experience. I've always been uncomfortable with experimenting with clients. Call me crazy but if someone is coming to me for a body modification, they are paying for my expertise, experience and knowledge to produce the best out come. For that reason, I have always found it unethical to do procedures that I know will have limited success or a often damaging out come. The handful experimental and surfuce to surface piercing that I have done over the past 17 years have been on clients that I had built up a relationship with, clearly understood the risks, had healed a number of piercings and clearly understood that the procedure was experimental at best.

See this is the problem that I have with the sudden wide implication of dermal anchoring. Not so much that it is being done as much as how it is being done on pretty much anyone that walks through the studio door with money in their pocket and a desire to get one. Without a mention of the risks of migration, scarring or that the implant will more than likely be temporary at best. 

The act of Dermal Implants and single point pocketing is nothing new. In fact the procedures have been around since the 1990s. Originally developed as an alternative to surface to surface piercings which had a large rejection rate from the pressure of the stiff jewelry adding additional stress to the piercings and the amount of tissue needed the body would need to heal around the jewelry. With Surface to Surface piercings the idea was to pierce deeper into the tissue and intersect the natural curve of the body to increase the resistance or migration by giving the body less tissue to heal.

The idea behind pocketing and dermal implants was to limit the jewelry's foot plant speed up healing and reduce rejection. This is done by puncturing the skin at an angle and separating connective tissue thus creating a "pocket". Then the jewelry's anchor, usually a flat rectangle with rounded corners is inserted into the pocket shaped wound.  Though there are different designs the most anchors have slits in them to allow tissue to connect through the anchor reducing rejection.

The advantage of anchoring is that can be placed in the body in areas that are curved and don't protrude. The problem is that often these areas of the body are in consent contact with clothing, bedding and on areas of the body that move or stretch with daily movement. Thus the jewelry and the anchor under continuing stress. It's kind of like the webbing between your thumb and fore finger. Sure you can put a piece of jewelry through it but are you never going to use that hand again? Just the natural every day movement of picking up objects, typing, opening doors, etc.. will cause stress on the piercing and jewelry which in turn will cause the piercing and jewelry to reject. 

Healing is another thing to consider. Let's think about what we are asking the body to do? To heal the wound to the point where it is no longer an open wound, we are asking the body to encase the anchor in tissue instead of simply pushing the anchor out. As I covered first installment when we pierce a body and insert jewelry, we are creating a situation where we are forcing the body to accept a foreign object and then encase it in tissue. One of the key factors in this is placing the jewelry so that it is easier for the body to encase the jewelry with new skin than it is for the body to simply push the jewelry out of the body.

Since Dermal anchors are closer to the surface and have only one entry point, it maybe easier for your body to push the jewelry out than to grow the "pocket" of tissue around the anchor. Often the body will close the wound by creating a pocket around the anchor and then slowly tighten the pocket forcing the jewelry out of the body over time. Thus making rejection not so much a question of weather or not it will happen but how long will the migration take. Add to that areas of the body that are often in contact with clothing, bedding or on points of the body where the skin is pull on with normal movement, only increases the risks of rejection. To get an idea of what kind of outward stress an anchor maybe subjected to, take a part of your body that you can pinch easily when the muscles are relaxed and then try to hold onto as you flex your muscles.

Like all piercings or body modifications, it is permanently changing the body. This means that there will be scar tissue and usually the longer the anchor has been in the greater the scarring. One should consider scarring before hand. This is of a higher concern because the most popular location for Micro-dermals and other Dermal Implants seem to be in highly visible areas of the body like the face and upper chest. If rejects happens you maybe left with an angry red line of scar tissue with width of the anchor.

The other concern is removal of the jewelry. Even with standard piercing and body piercing jewelry it can be difficult to remove jewelry. This is especially true of large gauge Captive Bead Rings or Beaded rings where a tools and techniques maybe need to safely remove the jewelry. However with Dermal, Micro-Dermal and other forms of Implants and pocketing where the jewelry is designed to anchor into tissue, removing the jewelry may involve tearing the jewelry lose. Before getting one you should strongly consider that in medical energies, job interviews and other situation where the jewelry will need to be removed, you can simply slide the jewelry out of the piercing. Also in all most all cases the jewelry can not be re-inserted into the pocket and is completely lost after a short period of time. 

Maybe the greatest risk with dermal implants is the development of an Inward Traveling Infection. This is caused when an infection drains into the body instead of out of the body. Usually the body expelled bacteria and infection out of the body by pushing the infected tissue outward. If the jewelry is too tight the the body, it will block the body from expellign the infection. Since with a Inward traveling infection, since the signs of infection are not present at the piercing location, often the infection goes unnoticed until the infection has turned systematic. Though this is maybe rare, dermal anchoring is more prone to this mainly because of the tightness of the jewelry and because it is more prone to not allowing the body to drain the infection through the puncture wound.

My greatest concern is that as the popularity of Anchoring increases, just like all other piercings, there will be an increasing number of people performing the procedure that are unskilled and unwilling to educate clients of the risk, dangers, and chances of migration and scarring. If you are considering still considering getting a dermal anchor, please research the procedure and the person that you are going to have do the procedure. If that person doesn't take the time to explain the risks involved with this or doesn't seem to want to answer questions go elsewhere.