3D Computer Simulation of Breast Augmentation with Vectra 3D

How can I visualize the way I will look with implants before undergoing surgery?

Until recently, you really could not do this with any reasonable degree of accuracy. The commonly practiced method of placing an implant, bag of water, rice, peas or any other material in your bra or on top of your breast is not even remotely close to showing you how you would look after surgery.

In the past, there were some computer software applications that will allow you to alter a two dimensional photograph and allow you to see an augmented breast, but there are some limitations with this as well. The post operative images are the creation of the surgeon, based on what he thinks you will look like, but there is no accuracy here either. Also, the images are only two dimensional and cannot be rotated to show you how you would look from other visual angles.

The Vectra 3D takes a high resolution three dimensional image of a subject's face, breast or body, then allow's the viewer to rotate the image in any direction and furthermore simulate the results of surgical procedures. It uses six high resolution digital cameras and special proprietary software to create the three dimensional images. In the case of breast augmentation, the system is pre-programmed with the entire library of the dimensions of breast implants from Allergan, Mentor and Sientra, thus allowing one to simulate breast augmentation in three dimensions. In July 2009, I ordered the Vectra and had one of the first systems in the country (I think the manufacturer said it was the 20th system). This became a major game changer in my practice.

The Vectra 3D imaging system contains an array of six cameras that will take your photograph from many different angles. The computer will then construct a 260 degree, three dimensional image of your torso. This image can be rotated and viewed from almost any angle. The software is pre-programmed with 3D models of several popular implant styles and sizes. The computer will then create a three dimensional simulated image of how you will look after surgery. You can then view the before and after images, rotate and move them, and even compare the results with different implants…all from the comfort of the consultation chair. Understand that this is only a computer simulation. It is for demonstration only, and the actual post surgical result will vary to some degree from the computer simulation portrayed on the computer monitor, but this is most accurate method of visualizing how you might look after breast augmentation surgery that I know of. I am one of the first surgeons in the nation to use the VECTRA 3D system for breast augmentation simulations. Furthermore, I can now upload your images so that you can view them in the privacy of your home, via "ViewMyConsult.com".

Here is what I do not do. I do not use the Vectra to allow the woman to select her implants based upon the appearance on the computer screen. This would go against everything I believe in, and my experience since selecting implants this way since June 2004. The reason for this is simple. On a computer screen, you can take an image of a woman's breast and make it as large as you like. After all, it's just an image on a screen. However, when you are dealing with human tissue, there are limitations as to how much you can stretch it before you damage or outright destroy it.

The way I use the Vectra is as follows: I determine ideal breast implant size using the system of soft tissue based planning, I do not give a woman a bra to "try on implants". This is a ludicrous practice and potentially dangerous as it takes nothing into consideration regarding the tissue characteristics of the woman's own breasts and often results in using implants too large for a given breast resulting in damage to the breast tissues and the creation of uncorrectable deformities. (If you place an implant on top of a breast, then how do you take into account the fact that you need far less implant volume if the breast tissue is tight as opposed to needing more volume if the breast is very lax?). I then take the ideal implant size as determined by my measurements and plug that into the Vectra and morph the actual breast/chest image to show how the patient might look with surgery. I say "might" because no computer simulation system is exact, however, it does do a nice job of putting the patient "in the zone" for a reasonable approximation in many cases. In any case, the feedback from my patients both before surgery, as well as after surgery, has been extremely positive and supportive of this technology. Many have commented how close the simulations were to their actual postoperative results, and I have actually compared several simulations to post-operative results and have been similarly impressed with the results.

Before the Vectra, I had absolutely no way of showing a woman, or even giving her any idea as to how she might look after breast augmentation surgery. Now, I can give her a fairly good idea as to how she will look after surgery (I am very careful to tell my patients that this is a computer simulation and that actual results will differ from the computer simulation, but it still provides very useful information for the patient). I became so fascinated with this technology that I took an active role in working with Canfield scientific (the developer of the Vectra) in providing valuable feedback and ideas for further development of the system as a member of the Vectra advisory panel. It has been exciting being a part of this project and seeing the capabilities and accuracy of this system grow and improve each year. My patients absolutely love it as well!

Next Topic: Things We Cannot Control - Tissue Stretching, Wound Healing & Capsule Contracture »

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