Improving Confidence in Plastic Surgeons & Patients with VR


Plastic and cosmetic surgery has done wonders for people in helping improve their lives and confidence, but this comes with unfortunate risks. A surgeon’s attention to detail is vital since they are performing on some of the thinnest muscles in the human body, such as in the face, and are often operating near vital organs. The level of precision required can cause issues for both surgeons and patients.

A simple mistake could not only leave a patient unhappy, but also the possibility to lead to a malpractice lawsuit. Plastic surgery is the leading cause of malpractice lawsuits, partly because of its focus on esthetics which are subjective and highly personal. For this reason, plastic and cosmetic surgeons require extensive and rigorous training since every incision is essential.


Malpractice Statistics: The Ugly Numbers

Malpractice lawsuits resulting from an operation are an unfortunate reality for plastic and cosmetic surgeons. With 29% of patients reporting dissatisfaction with results of an operation, this sets these two types of surgeries ahead of the pack when it comes to malpractice lawsuit claims in the medical field. Dissatisfaction isn’t the only consequence of these operations: 14% of patients claim emotional distress, and another 14% report scar deformity following these types of procedures.

The majority of malpractice lawsuits involve claims on non-vital surgeries. These types of operations are mainly breast augmentation, abdominoplasty, breast reconstruction, and face procedures (not around the eyes or nose). Since most claims are about aesthetic procedures, a potential way to reduce these claims might be to  educate patients prior to procedures and create more realistic expectations in their minds.

Combatting the Risk: Inflated Expectations

One of the biggest issues plaguing this sector of medicine is that patients have unrealistic expectations for the results of these operations. With current technology, it has never been easier to show what the potential outcome of a surgery will look like, but it’s only a start. Currently, plastic surgery consultation apps are used to morph and manipulate photos of patients, showing them how a procedure might change their appearance. However, such overly optimistic imagery can also set the patient up to be disappointed when the end product isn’t what is shown on the screen.

One way to change this trend is to give a more in-depth explanation to patients of what the procedure will entail and what is reasonable to expect in terms of surgical risk and outcomes. It might even invoke a sense of empathy from the patient in just how delicate the operation will be, and how even a skilled surgeon can encounter difficulties. This change in patient-surgeon relations would not only improve acceptance and enhance consultations, but potentially reduce the amount of malpractice lawsuits claimed against practitioners. Using virtual reality (VR) technology for consultations, a patient can fly through their upcoming procedure while guided by the surgeon, seeing how the incisions will be made and facial or body structure will be changed.


Turning Mistakes into Lessons

Since every human body is different, no two surgeries are the same — sadly leading to occasional life-threatening mistakes. Having the ability to let doctors practice precise procedures on a “Digital Twin” of patients beforehand would help reduce the uncertainty when entering the operating room. This is where VR goes from an intriguing video game trend to an industry-shattering opportunity.

With the advancement of virtual reality hardware such as haptic feedback devices that give the ability to “physically” interact with 3D models, this allows surgeons to get a better understanding of what the operation will entail than an x-ray could ever convey. Having multiple attempts at an operation would help surgeons avoid potential mistakes before making a single incision.

This implementation of virtual reality would help plastic and cosmetic surgeons across the board. Plastic surgery residencies could use this as a way to give their resident surgeons an affordable method of endless hours of hands-on experience during their studies. Embracing virtual reality would help seasoned and fresh surgeons gain confidence and avoid potential malpractice lawsuits.


The Future of Plastic Surgery is Beautiful

Delicate work requires steady hands. Giving surgeons actual hands-on experience with virtual reality during schooling and before operations can help curb avoidable errors mid-surgery. This technology can also help outside of the operating room. Using accurate renderings to guide patients through procedures and risks in detail can help reduce malpractice desire and opportunity post-surgery. All-in-all, adopting virtual reality into the plastic and cosmetic industry will improve the experience of both surgeons and patients, and this is just the beginning.