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Virtual Reality Technology Lets Plastic Surgery Patients See What Results Will Look Like

Virtual reality isn't just for video games.

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Dr. Max Gomez
, CBS New York
NEW YORK — Virtual reality isn't just for video games.

The technology is transforming medicine, too.

As WCBS-TV's Dr. Max Gomez reports, plastic surgeons are using virtual reality to help patients see what their results will look like.

Tiffany Hayden is considering having breast augmentation surgery, but she's anxious about what she'll look like.

"I'm very petite. So I think on my small frame I can't go too big. I still want to look natural and feel like myself in my clothes," she said.

Even with those general thoughts, patients were often unsure whether their results would look like what they had in mind, and plastic surgeons had limited ways to communicate to patients what they could achieve.

"At best, we'll use photographs, which are two-dimensional. We'll try and sketch changes on those photographs, we'll try to draw it on a piece of paper and that's sort of where we're at," said Dr. Neil Tanna, of Northwell Health.

That's where 3-D iPad scans come in.

Special software converts those photos into images that Hayden and the doctor can manipulate to try out different looks. Then, the part that really makes the biggest difference for patients – those images are played into a virtual reality headset.

So Hayden can see what her new figure will look like from all sorts of angles.

"I think it was incredible to see my actual shape and proportion and have the implants in and see exactly what they look like on my size and shape when I look down," she said. "It just makes a decision that much easier, what I would want to go with."

But do the actual results match the virtual reality after surgery?

Justine Dietz is getting married and wanted to fill out her wedding gown. Her surgery was just a month ago.

"You put the goggles on and you look side to side, you look down and it's like you're really – already had the surgery," she said. "The results are like exactly the same as when I had the goggles on. I couldn't believe it. I really couldn't."

The VR technology is best for breast and nose surgeries.

Just because you can see something in virtual reality, doesn't mean it's actually achievable in the operating room, Gomez reported. Tanna still has to manage patient expectations.

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