My Surgeon Doesn't Do Computer Imaging Should I Be Concerned?

I called to get a consultation for a chin implant and the lady said the doctor doesn't do computer imaging? She said instead they draw a picture? Is the surgeon just not good enough or confident enough to provide the results? How can I figure out what I will really look like after surgery?

Doctor Answers 13

My Surgeon Doesn't Do Computer Imaging Should I Be Concerned?

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Good for him. Computer images have absolutely nothing to do with what you will actually look like. As one of the consultants below indicated, you can make the computer image look like anything you want. Any good physician using a computer will make sure, in writing, that you understand the computer image in no way is a guarantee you will have that result. A bad doctor will use a computer image to sell you on a surgery. At least with no computer you can be sure the latter alternative will not occur.

Portland Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 28 reviews

Concern About My Surgeon Who Does Not Use Computer Imaging

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Two friends who are artists with excellent computer skills can do a rhinoplasty with imaging as good or better than I, but I would not want them doing my surgery. We can demonstrate the proposed changes in your nose using computur imaging or drawing on your pictures. The best way to evaluate a surgeon and  determine if you two have similar aesthetic tastes is to see pictures of results in multiple patients with noses like yours.

Richard W. Fleming, MD
Beverly Hills Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 42 reviews


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If a surgeon does not offer computer imaging. has nothing to do with his confidence as a surgeon.  When computer imaging is available, it provides an estimate and possibilities only.  Photos are generally available in the doctor's office of past similar surgeries.  These can be very helpful.  Also, patients are able to bring in photos that and they also can be very helpful and good visual suggestions for the surgeon.

David Alessi, MD
Beverly Hills Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.7 out of 5 stars 17 reviews

Computer imaging in plastic surgery is problematic

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The computer doesn't know how your tissues will respond to surgery so the result it shows cannot be construed as a guarantee of the result.  Consequently, most surgeons statistically do not use computer imaging but instead try to work with the mirror, other patient photos and your own photos to simulate the results.

Usefulness of computer imaging

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I have used some type of computer imaging (video, then digital)  for over 25 years. Although most think it predicts the future outcome of surgery, I find it more useful for me to analyze the face. This helps me to propose certain procedures and to plan my surgical steps such as in rhinoplasty. Before the advent of this modality I used photgraphic prints of the patient to make drawings for the same purposes. 

Sheldon S. Kabaker, MD FACS
San Francisco Facial Plastic Surgeon

Computer Imaging Can Be a Helpful Patient Education Tool, but Definitely Not Necessary and Sometimes Detrimental

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The easy answer here is that you should absolutely not be concerned if your surgeon does not use computer imaging.

There are many changes that can be easily accomplished on a computer, but not so easily accomplished in living human tissue. In this way, computer imaging can set false expectations for the patient about what is truly surgically possible.

I used computer imaging early on in my practice as an excellent communication tool to help understand my patients' goals, particularly with rhinoplasty. However, after almost 20 years in practice, I now have so many examples of real life patient before and after pictures that I prefer to show prospective patients what can be accomplished in real life.

In this way, not only can patients view improvement goals and results of other patients that are similar to them, but they can also get a broad sense of how patients respond to a particular type of surgery. Further, they get a sense of my surgical style and whether or not it suits them.

In my experience, this real-life approach yields a patient who is better informed and whose expectations better match such, they generally tend to be more satisfied with their results.

Michael R. Macdonald, MD
Bay Area Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.6 out of 5 stars 18 reviews

Computer imaging is a tool

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Computer imaging is a communication tool that your surgeon uses to show you the possible changes that can be made to your chin. It allows for feedback from you the patient as to your likes and dislikes. If your surgeon prefers to show you the proposed changes through drawing on your pictures, that seems very reasonable. Its the skill of the surgeon and their ability to communicate to you what to expect from the surgery that counts.

Thomas Buonassisi, MD
Vancouver Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 113 reviews

Computer Imaging as it relates to surgical skill

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I have not found computer imaging to be accurate or predictive of what will happen during and after surgery.  Computer imagers move around pixels - surgeons move complex tissues in three dimensions.  There is not comparison.  Some surgeons find computer imaging to be helpful in communicating with the patient the goals of surgery.  This may be useful, but I use drawings.  Computer imaging is not a measure of skill or confidence.  Some use it ...some don't. Although patients are beginning to expect it so I may have to jump on the bandwagon and get an imager!

Jay Calvert, MD, FACS
Beverly Hills Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 51 reviews

Computer Imaging in chin augmentation

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Plastic surgeons have different approaches to how they plan and show different types of facial surgery. There are advantages and disadvantages to doing computer imaging from really helping to determine how much chin projection you want to showing results that can not be created surgically. The imaging is only as good as the person doing it. It can be both a good and bad plastic surgery tool. Computer imaging of chin augmentation is the simplest form of computer imaging and side projection views can be really helpful. I find it invaluable in my practice as a communication tool. But the quality of a plastic surgeon's work should not be judged as inferior just because they don't  do computer imaging.

Computer imaging is a helpful tool, but a surgeon's skills are most important...

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3d Computer Imaging is a relatively new technology that is making its way into plastic surgery practices.  Many qualified plastic surgeons have been performing surgeries and getting successful results/happy patients for years.  I use the Vectra 3D imagers as part of my consultation. However, this device does not perform surgery.  It allows the patient and the surgeon to look at a picture and agree that it is the result the patient is looking for and a result the surgeon can achieve. As with any surgery no one can guarantee that the manipulated image will exactly represent the final result. 

As a prospective patient I would be more concerned regarding my surgeon’s qualifications (board certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery, member in good standing with the ASPS) rather than whether or not an individual has bought a fancy piece of equipment.  The imager is a helpful tool for the consultation but it does not in any way make up for the lack of qualification of poor surgical skills.

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.