Plastic Surgery Imaging Software: Does It Really Work?

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The demand for plastic surgery remains consistently high, and doctors are always on the hunt for new ways to improve the patient experience and stay on the industry’s leading edge. Certainly one of the most high-tech advancements in aesthetic medicine has been the addition of imaging systems, which allow patients to glimpse the possible outcome of surgical options well before the first incision is made. For instance, if you want breast implants, these programs can manipulate photos of you to show how you might look with different sizes and shapes.

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While most surgeons and patients alike enjoy the improved expectations and frank communication that these programs facilitate, it’s still important to remember that software can’t account for certain factors. It can’t feel the quality of your skin, it can’t account for your lifestyle habits, and it can’t read your mind to determine your precise cosmetic goals. These tools are definitely exciting ways to envision your potential results, but they’re still just that — tools. Most surgeons who use them are quick to remind patients that what they see using imaging systems are just educated guesses and not guarantees.

With that in mind, let’s look at how some of the most popular systems stack up. Here’s what you can expect from the most common systems available today.

VECTRA® 3-D Imaging System

By far the most popular imaging system in the offices of North American plastic surgeons, VECTRA comes in several iterations for the face, breasts, and body. VECTRA is arguably the most advanced option for plastic surgery imaging, offering access to details including specific breast implants, measurements, and even skin condition.

According to the website of Dr. Louis Cutolo, a plastic surgeon specializing in facelift and other facial rejuvenation on Staten Island, VECTRA images “tend to look very close to the eventual results.” Plenty of doctors on RealSelf, a popular online plastic surgery forum, tend to agree that VECTRA is a useful tool that opens the lines of communication between them and their patients.

Crisalix Virtual Aesthetics

Swiss-based Crisalix is a close competitor of VECTRA, but it’s a bit more common with surgeons in Europe and Central America. Developed in 2009, Crisalix boasts the first Web-based imaging platform, allowing patients as well as surgeons to have access to the technology.

Crisalix is available for only face and breast procedures. Unlike VECTRA, which captures an image of your body with its own special 360-degree camera, Crisalix can render an image from a regular 2-D photo. While this is certainly a convenient option, this convenience can come at the cost of image quality.

Regardless, Crisalix is a solid choice for getting a conversation started with your surgeon, especially if your case is relatively straightforward.

Plastic Surgery Simulator

Intended for consumers rather than physicians, Plastic Surgery Simulator is a less sophisticated option that feels a bit more like a fun smartphone app than true medical technology. But maybe that’s the idea. Rather than seeing a surgeon to experiment with potential looks, Plastic Surgery Simulator lets you try on everything from the conservative to the outlandish and then share it with your social networks (of course).

A disclaimer on Plastic Surgery Simulator’s site warns, “There can be a huge difference between what can be achieved in the context of a real plastic surgery, and on a computer simulation tool.” The one major downside of Plastic Surgery Simulator is that there’s no surgeon by your side offering professional guidance or a simple reality check.

Still, it’s certainly fun to let yourself run wild with unchecked possibilities. Plastic Surgery Simulator may be worth a download if not for any other reason than to satisfy that little voice that asks, “What if?”

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