(Mirrored from http://www.bmezine.com/extreme/surgical/tongue/A11112/extargon.html)
Argon laser tongue splitting
by Shannon Larratt
About ten years ago tongue splitting was virtually unheard of. It was mentioned almost as an urban legend from time to time on rec.arts.bodyart, but it was stuff like "a friend of mine saw it in a music video" and things like that. We all pretty much assumed that it would be so damaging that a person who'd undergone the procedure wouldn't be able to speak. A few years later, I was sent pictures from a friend in Italy who's friend had his tongue split by a dentist there. The procedure entailed scalpelled cuts closed with the help of silver nitrate. The cuts closed mostly, but over repeated procedures he ended up with a full split. His friend told me that he had a slight lisp, but that she didn't think the tongue split had a major effect on speech.
A few years later, my friend Erik ("The Lizardman") started investigating the possibility of having the procedure done here. He had found Dr. Lawrence Busino in Albany, NY. A quick consultation later (I suppose to check his sanity) and the procedure was booked. It went without a hitch, and I made an appointment to have mine done as well. My girlfriend at the time was none to happy with me deciding to do it, and threatened to break up with me if I proceeded. Now, I know it probably reflects poorly on me, but being who I am, that simply made me want it more.
I'm not sure if I can give a good reason as to the real reasons behind why I wanted it done. The general concept had already been interesting to me, but whether it was something that I needed on some level is highly debatable... Back then I did a lot of experimenting with my body, so maybe it was as simple as curiosity.
Anyway, I took a bus to Albany (I was living in Philadelphia at the time) and met up with Erik -- which was funny on its own because to me he seemed fairly normal given the company I keep, but all his ultra-normal roommates had given him the nickname "Satan". I think we had dinner and then I tried to go to early to be well rested for the procedure. In the morning we met up with Tom Brazda (who had come down to visit and work at Infinite for a week), and went to Dr. Busino's office.
I paid my shockingly low bill of $375 and we began the consultation. He explained the basics of the procedure, and told me that one of the reasons he was willing to do this is that he felt it was a reversible procedure -- when healed, he could always stick it back together by abrading the inside of the split and re-suturing it. He went on to tell me that he also did similar procedures for people with tongue cancer, or people with abnormal tongues (such as tongue reductions for people who had trouble speaking because their tongue was too big for their mouth), so he was inside familiar ground procedurally.
After the consultation I sat down in the chair and we began the anesthesia. I had been offered either general anesthesia or a Valium drip, but I elected to use only simple local anesthetic. He used a topical to numb the tissue behind my molars, and then injected lidocaine there, I assume to attempt a nerve block. Then, using long needles, he injected along the length of my tongue -- the nerve block had barely worked, so this was intensely painful. I seem to be fairly resistant to anesthetics, so I think he injected dozen times before we felt it was safe to proceed.
Using a surgical marker he drew a line of dots along the center of my tongue, ending about an inch and a half back from the tip -- about half an inch past my healed tongue piercing if I remember right. Using an argon laser he then etched these dots in as markers. His assistant helped spread the tongue, and he slowly etched the depth of the incision down until he'd split through. We stopped at nearly an inch and a half when it became apparent that the anesthesia had not taken to that depth, or had worn off.
The procedure up until this point was almost completely bloodless, but then he started suturing. The top skin of the tongue was pulled down to meet the bottom. Because my tongue was done this way, I have taste buds on the inside of the split, and it curves in -- to me, it looks far more "natural" this way, almost as if I was born with it. Anyway, the suturing bled, but not that much. The entire procedure was over inside of fifteen minutes. He gave me a prescription for painkillers and sent me on my way.
We bought the codeine and got on a bus for the hours long ride to my place in Philly. At this point my tongue began to swell, and in part I assume because of the pressure of the sutures, it became very painful. Luckily the painkillers mostly knocked me out and it was bearable. For the next two days I was not able to effectively talk or eat, but realistically, it wasn't significantly worse than anything I'd gone through from a variety of tongue piercings. However, the sloughing off of burned flesh over the first five days is not very pleasant!
Because I was just the second person that Dr. Busino had done, we were not entirely sure of the best method of aftercare -- the problem wasn't healing it, but healing it without having the split close. I did my best to keep the cut open, but the sutures popped out fairly early and it began to close. A whitish mucousy pseudo-skin formed over the inside of the split, and small nodules began to form -- I got freaked out and worried that something might be wrong. Busino assured me it was nothing to worry about and recommended that I drink hot water. Drinking tea was wonderful! It was far more soothing than anything else I'd tried.
My diet over the first week and a half consisted largely of tabouli with tuna and ranch dressing (it sounds horrible, I know), but probably inside of two weeks I was 95% healed and was back to normal both in speech and eating. I'm sure there are extremely minor changing in my speech (perhaps a slight lisp), but no one has noticed, so if there is a difference, it's largely imperceptable. The two halves were fairly easy to control separately from the start, but I never really practiced it much, so my sideshow tricks are not that impressive. I can swirl the halves around each other and pick up sticks and things like that, but it's not a particularly stunning act.
The closure of the wound continued over the first year and then it settled, leaving me with about a 3/4" split. Since then Busino has refined both his recommended aftercare and his suturing technique to drastically minimize regrowth (of course, he's also at least doubled his prices as well). I could always go back to get it re-cut, but to be honest it's not a big deal to me.
I'm not sure that I got anything tangible from this -- there are no real effects on anything (although it probably makes some bedroom games more versatile)... That said, even now, five years later I find myself twirling them around in my mouth, sort of like twiddling my fingers. The tongue split, probably more than any other mod I have, has become a part of my identity and when I think about myself, it is difficult to imagine what it would be like not to have a split tongue. Of all the mods I've pursued, it's one that I've always been universally happy with, and that I would recommend to pretty much anyone.
PS. Long after we broke up, I was told that she secretly found the split extremely erotic once she saw it.