How Accurate Is Computer Imaging For Facial Surgery?

Q: Dr. Eppley, I had chin and cheek computer imaging done to show me what the effects of this surgery would be on my face. I notice in looking at the images that there is some asymmetry with one side being different than the other. Is this what I can expect from the outcome of the surgery?

A: There are some basic concepts of computer imaging in plastic surgery that are important for every patient who undergoes it for any procedure to understand. First, the quality of computer imaging is only as good as that of the original pictures. In your case, you provided the pictures which were not of great quality.  (slightly blurry and out of focus) When these pictures are magnified for imaging, the quality is not good enough to create very good detail. Second, computer imaging is designed to serve as a method of  communication so the patient and the surgeon can see if they are on the same page, it is not intended to be an exact replica or a guarantee of the result. Contrary to popular perception, there is no computer that does the imaging. It may be done on the computer but ultimately it is the hand of the operator (often using Photoshop) that is creating what he/she thinks the effects will be from the surgery. That is the reason it is called ‘computer prediction imaging’…it is a prediction not an assured result. Third and most important, Plastic Surgery is not Photoshop. The body does not respond to trauma and healing like pixels do on a computer screen.

Dr. Barry Eppley

Indianapolis, Indiana