Your next patient may be the devil or may look something like it. As culture as a whole relaxes, body modification trends have made tattooing as shocking as a slice of white bread. Horn implants, technically known as subdermal implants, are becoming more popular and carry every ounce of shock factor imaginable. The inventor and purveyor of subdermal and transdermal implants is Steve Haworth, a man famous for his wide-ranging and innovative body modification work. Since his body-mod invention in 1994, both the implant procedure and Haworth himself have only risen in popularity. He first performed the procedure after a New Zealand woman requested a bracelet and he found a way to embrace the challenge.
Haworth not only created the implants but created new medical instruments called “dermal elevators” for the procedure. Haworth has a background in designing medical devices and implants. He began experimenting with horn materials by first using surgical steel. Soon after, he began using Teflon, silicone, and now injection-molded silicone. Since 1999, Haworth has been the Guinness World Record holder of “most advanced body modification artist.” His inventions and wide talents in modification make him a pioneer in the industry. His creations, including the subdermal implants, allow many people to feel closer to their true identities. And surprisingly, the procedure is fairly simple.
Horn implants are a particularly fascinating modification. They require patience and dedication by each person who desires them. The first question is: what length do you want your horns? This determines how long the process will take. In order to have horns inserted effectively and safely, small implants are placed first and are gradually replaced with incrementally larger implants so that the skin has the ability to adapt properly at the body’s pace. Most implants will be placed via a pseudo-surgical method beginning with a small scalpel incision. A dermal separator is then used to create a pocket for the implant. With a pocket created, the implant is placed and the incision is closed with sutures or suture tape. All in all, the procedure itself is not much more complicated than that. The advised after-care is to keep oneself in prime health. In rare cases, the body rejects the implant. This, in turn, means that the implant will push through the skin, usually as a result of improper placement, the implant size being too large, or the implants having vertical points. Remedying this is fairly easy and usually requires the removal of the implant. However, in the rare case when the implant is not tolerated, there is a risk of scarring both internally and externally.
Other risks exist for implants, as is true for anything invasive. The risk of infection is ever-present and very high but there’s also concern of tissue resorption, contamination of the implant, nerve and muscle pressure, migration, and shifting of the implant. The risk that should be heeded by all is tissue resorption. The problem with subdermal implants is that they are not fused to anything, which means constant and subtle rubbing. Eventually, days, months, and years of subtle shifting and rubbing will erode the tissue that the implant is near or sitting on. And there’s no way to be aware of damage occurring, as symptoms can take anywhere from a month to several decades before showing themselves. The best way to combat the risk of this occurrence (or to keep the implants on a temporary basis) is to use the softest material available, which, presently, is silicone.
One risk with all body modification is known as “mod before client.” Most people requesting modifying procedures are in good health, but some may not be mentally well. It is up to the practitioner to decide whether or not the person has realistic and healthy ideas and expectations for their modification. During a consultation, the practitioner and client need to discuss their process and ideas. The risk arises when some modification artists do not heed to this standard and may not only perform an unsafe request, but exacerbate it by further modifying and creating an even greater risk. This is a common occurrence in the realm of subdermal implants. Haworth estimates that there are roughly 30 artists who use butter knives instead of dermal elevators, just one example of how risky the choice of artist is. A slight error from an inexperienced modification artist could mean serious harm to the nervous and lymphatic systems. No medical training is required to perform this procedure but it is, in every way, a surgical procedure, which raises a lot of controversy. For those who are both physically and mentally healthy and desire horn implants no matter the risk, the procedure is one that can be arranged and implemented quite easily. After all, implanting silicone to create horns isn’t that different from implanting silicone to create broader cheeks, jaws, or chins. With a safe, reputable practitioner and a typically low-key recovery, the procedure is within most people’s reach. These implants also make for a guaranteed win for any Halloween costume contest, a solid return on investment.
- Norton Q. Body artists customize your flesh. Wired.com. http://www.wired.com/culture/lifestyle/news/2006/03/70322?currentPage=all.
- Subdermal implant. BME Encyclopedia. http://wiki.bme.com/index.php?title=Subdermal_Implant.
- Who we are. Steve Haworth Modified Web site. http://stevehaworth.com/main/?page_id=26.