Plastic surgery has always been a visual science. Its all about peoples perception of their own visual persona that they feel they represent to those around them. We, as plastic surgeons, provide to our patients the ability to improve that image. We, therefore at consultation for these visual improvements, need to convey to our patients what visual changes they can reasonably expect and provide some information about the risks, benefits as well as other optional treatment choices that exist. We call this process a consultation.
Consults for improvement in breast size, shape, or symmetry issues has been dealt with in the past with photographic aids. Beginning about 1996, 2D imaging of breasts with a “Photoshop” like program in which the photo taken at consultation could be manipulated with software tools to depict the possible result. We, as plastic surgeons were kind of guessing as to what the breast would look like with a certain size implant, but with a fair amount of practice, 14 years or so for me, we got pretty good at it.
However, the best manipulations were only viewed on a side view of the breasts where the blue background of the image was behind the actual photo. Not infrequently, the patient or her husband or boyfriend present at the consultation would say “can I see what that would look like from the front?” I would reply, “It’s hard to show that since we are manipulating pixels and without the blue in the background it is difficult to show a 3D change from the front. Someday we will have a camera software combination that can interpolate the change seen from the side to that seen from the front.”
Well, that is day is finally here. We have just installed the first Vectra 3D imaging system in the state of Kentucky. I have watched the introduction of this technology grow over the last year or so and felt that it was finally good enough to incorporate into our practice. There are only some 40 of these systems around the US now. The Vectra 3D camera takes a single image of the breasts or face from 6 different 6 megapixel images then stitches them together and using a very sophisticated mathematical model creates a 3D image of the patient that can be moved around on a large screen display in any direction. Both the results of breast augmentation as well as the facial procedures like facelift, nose surgery,(rhinoplasty), chin tucks can be visualized in 3D.
For the breast augment patient, the choice of the size of the implant was always challenging. I believe that the best, most natural, and longest lasting results are achieved when the base diameter of the implant best fits into the natural size of the women’s chest wall. This photo system actually measures in real dimensions those parameters and can display them on the screen. The data of size, width and projection for all of the implants made by Mentor and Allergan are stored on the system.
We simply click the type and size of the implant and the software applies that to the breast and shows an enhanced version on the screen. We can then rotate that image sideways, vertical, up and down and compare it to the natural untreated image. The view from the top, as the women sees herself is especially compelling. No more guessing, stuffing implants on top inside a bra or adding baggies of rice to estimate the size of the implant is needed to get the job done. We can even adjust for dissimilar size breasts by using different size implants on each side. The look on the few patients faces that have seen this technological advance has been quite satisfying. No you can really “try on” the different implant sizes to get a feel of how you will look after breast augmentation surgery.