Nov. 7, 2012
-- A high-tech trend is growing in Orange County plastic surgery practices, as well as in many more around the country: the use of digital imaging software to show patients how they might look after their procedure. But according to Andrew Smith, MD, FACS, "might" is the operative word. He suggests that nothing tops a doctor-patient conversation when it comes to establishing realistic expectations for plastic surgery.
"I don't feel comfortable enough with the accuracy of depicted results to use imaging software in my practice at this point," says Dr. Smith, who performs cosmetic surgery in Orange County (http://www.asmithmd.com/
. "I've reviewed various technologies at plastic surgery conferences, and although the software is constantly improving, it still doesn't produce a representation of the results that's accurate enough in my eyes. I'm concerned that imaging software can create unrealistic expectations. That's why I continue to wait for a better software solution before offering it to my patients."
Plastic surgery imaging software digitally alters patient photographs, either brought in by the patient or taken by the doctor in the office, to simulate the "after" results of cosmetic surgery. These systems can be used to simulate the results of a variety of surgeries including facelifts, breast augmentation, and Orange County liposuction (http://www.asmithmd.com/plastic-surgery/liposuction.cfm
). However, while the results depicted are not meant to be 100% accurate, some patients can rely too much on these images when making decisions.
"Although I use some of the most advanced technologies when actually performing plastic surgery, I prefer a simple, straightforward approach when it comes to understanding what a patient wants – an open dialogue," explains Dr. Smith. "During the consultation, I take the time to get to know my patients and understand why they are considering plastic surgery. I also ask them to bring in photographs of people who have the features they'd like to have themselves."
The types of surgery a doctor commonly performs also can influence how valuable computer imaging is as a resource. Traditionally, surgeons who perform a high number of nose surgeries (rhinoplasties)
have found computer imaging to be a helpful tool when talking with patients about their cosmetic goals. However, only recently has computer imaging for breast and body procedures become more common, and the technology in some cases remains in the early stages of development.
"From talking with my patients, I can develop a clear understanding of their aesthetic goals and also explain what can realistically be accomplished for them with cosmetic surgery," says Dr. Smith. "A computer-generated picture might be a useful starting point in some cases, but shouldn't take the place of open doctor-patient communication."