A Glimpse at the Future – Computer Imaging

Imagine being able to see your “after” photograph during your initial consultation, before surgery ever takes place. Through the wonders of state of the art technology, a process known as a computer imaging comes close to making that possible. With the advent of computers, we are now better able to analyze a patient’s facial features and make recommendations for surgical correction. This allows the patient and her/his surgeon to have a meeting of the minds prior to embarking on a surgical procedure.

Using a computer, high-resolution monitor, video camera, special software, and an electronic drawing pad the Facial Plastic Surgeon Sacramento can display the patient’s image on a television screen. After duplicating this picture, appropriate modifications are made to demonstrate those changes that the surgeon feels can reasonably be achieved during surgery. This “after” image is then viewed beside the “before” image in order that you may appreciate the improvements possible.

It is important that the patient realize that the image portrayed is only an estimate of what can be accomplished. The surgeon, after evaluating your particular concerns, skin characteristics and bone/cartilage structure, then draws what he feels is a reasonable facsimile of what could be accomplished at your surgery. There are, however, many factors such as unseen deformities and poor wound healing that can adversely affect any surgical result. Because of this the computer imager does have its limitations and cannot be a guarantee of what the result will be.

The computer imaging is very helpful in demonstrating changes to the nose by removing a hump, reshaping the tip or making a nose smaller and more in proportion to the rest of the facial features. This technique is also very helpful in demonstrating what can be done to improve the excess skin and fat that accumulates in the jowls and under the chin using liposuction and facelift techniques. Other useful areas are demonstrating what strengthening a weak chin will do to improve the appearance of the jaw in addition to the remainder of the face and neck and what improving the puffiness under the eyes will do to restore a more youthful and rested appearance.

Computer imaging is a wonderful tool for you to see on a screen those changes that you have envisioned only in your mind. It is important that you and your surgeon see eye to eye on what surgery can achieve. The computer imager allows the facial plastic surgeon to discuss with the patient their likes and dislikes, as portrayed on the screen. Through this discussion a dialogue develops between the patient and their surgeon, which is an essential component for successful surgery. Usually there is confirmation of what you thought was possible and after seeing it, your decision to proceed is much more comfortably made. For some, however, it is a helpful tool to realize that perhaps their expectations of what surgery could accomplish was too great.

Many times you may be able to draw on a photograph in an attempt to demonstrate what will be accomplished by surgery. Often one may see other patients and their results. This may be misleading, however, as their skin characteristics and cartilage/bone structure mat be completely different from yours and consequently their results will be different. Seeing the surgical changes on your own face compared to the original condition is one of the better ways to assess whether surgery is right for you.

Surgeons who use this equipment claims it works well as long as the patient is aware of it’s limitations; that is, the computer can superimpose an image, but the software is not yet sophisticated enough to take into account underlying bone and muscle structures. Moreover, the computer cannot replicate a patient’s healing capacity. Many surgeons are skeptical, however, noting that the computerized image may give patients false expectations.

Despite the controversy, most patients feel more comfortable and excited after they have had a chance to get a glimpse of tomorrow today.

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