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Computer Imaging on Plastic Surgery

Oct 9, 2007
Research shows that one of the most common patient concerns prior to having cosmetic surgery involves questions about what the surgical results and appearance changes will look like once surgery is over. How can the patient's expectations, the surgeon's skills, as well as projected surgical outcomes best be communicated?

Being able to address these questions and concerns in a realistic and individual way is key to achieving what both the patient and surgeon view as a successful result. This process is based on understanding what the patient expects and what the surgeon can realistically accomplish.
An excellent tool for communicating and projecting cosmetic surgery results

It is clear that one of the most important success factors in cosmetic surgery is patient/doctor communication. What the patient expects from the results of cosmetic surgery and what the surgeon can accomplish must be established up front. In the past, cosmetic surgeons depended on drawings or on a portfolio of other patients' "before and after" photos as tools for communicating and aligning expectations and outcomes.

Unfortunately, both methods are often inadequate and unpredictable because of the variables involved and because of the fact that no two patients are alike in either personal characteristics or expectations.

The good news is that computer imaging systems offer a very positive means for individualizing and demonstrating the realistic opportunities for self-improvement. Medical and computer systems experts have combined forces to study imaging technology for its medical practicality and effectiveness, and have demonstrated that in the right hands, they help close the gap between what the patient wants and what the surgeon can do.

In addition, computer imaging systems help decrease the trepidation patients feel by helping to eliminate the unknown factor in cosmetic surgery. Very importantly, computer imaging also helps patients understand and analyze their own appearances and align realistic expectations and results and give them a sense of being involved in the planning and goal-setting process, all of which ultimately increase post surgical satisfaction.

How computer imaging works

Computer imaging is literally revolutionizing the way patient and doctors communicate with each other. Here's how it works: First, the patient's picture is taken with a high-tech video camera from both the side profile and full face front view. The image is then digitized and recorded in high resolution color and projected onto a large color computer screen monitor that looks like a television. An original image is projected onto one side of the screen, while a copy of that image is projected onto the other side of the screen, in order for the doctor to manipulate the second image electronically to reflect projected cosmetic changes and compare them to the original image.

The system's software capabilities enable the doctor to use sophisticated electronic drawing techniques to shape, taper, blend and shade facial features and contours in order to project how the face will look after surgery has been performed. The original or "before" image can then be displayed side by side, next to the computer enhanced or "after" image, so that the doctor and patient can have an interactive discussion using this very powerful, individualized visual as a point of reference.

The before and projected after images can be printed out in high quality prints, and the patient can take the photos home to discuss and further consider their self-improvement options.

New advances in computer imaging technology

It is very important to point out that although sophisticated technical advantages of computer imaging systems provide excellent tools for communications and teaching, the realistic results of any cosmetic surgery are only as good as the surgical skill of the surgeon. The surgeon must be competent to deliver that which has been electronically produced. Cosmetic surgery is not an exact science, and its results offer improvement - not perfection.

However, it is safe to say that a high-tech computer image picture is not only worth a thousand words, but also is a dramatic tool for helping patients analyze self-improvement options.

With dramatic advancements in computing power on both the hardware and software sides, today's computer imaging systems can produce much improved end results over earlier systems. Due to technological limitations, the output of previous systems produced black and white printouts of computer images that were often distorted and unclear. With the advent of true digital photography, an image captured in a digital format will translate directly to the computer.

Thus, there is no degradation or distortion from the original image as there was with the earlier systems. With the digital character of the image captured, the image that appears on today's high resolution color monitor's screen is amazingly true to life. To put this improvement into perspective, the result is analoguous to the difference between CDs and vinyl records.
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