Scientists develop an algorithm to help rhinoplasty patients design a nose suited to their facial proportions. The technique could also help patients who have lost their own nose because of disease to design a perfectly fitting prosthetic. Matthew Stock reports.
Most plastic surgeons now use imaging software like Photoshop to help patients see how they'll look after going under the knife. Researchers in Belgium say their new algorithm delivers more realistic results for rhinoplasty, commonly called a nose job. First, a 3D model is built using off-the-shelf components. Once imported into their software, it creates the most appropriate looking nose, using hundreds of previously scanned faces as a baseline. (SOUNDBITE) (English) ARNE JANSEN, RESEARCHER AT THE MEANINGFUL INTERACTIONS LAB (MINTLAB), WITHIN THE UNIVERSITY OF LEUVEN, SAYING: "We combined this with an algorithm that was based on faces that were scanned - a lot of faces were scanned - so that the algorithm could calculate what a realistic nose could look like. So in Photoshop you could very easily make like a Pinocchio nose and that's really unrealistic, but with this software we've managed to keep the boundaries to what's really realistic." The computer-created nose can still be adjusted to the patient's liking. The team says it also has important applications for designing prosthetic replacements for patients whose noses have been amputated, often due to cancer. It uses facial characteristics to 'predict' a perfectly fitting whole new nose - even though there is no existing nasal structure to base it on. Key landmarks on the face are pinpointed; such as cheekbones, tip of the nose and corners of the eyes to help it design a well-suited nose. (SOUNDBITE) (English) ARNE JANSEN, RESEARCHER AT THE MEANINGFUL INTERACTIONS LAB (MINTLAB), WITHIN THE UNIVERSITY OF LEUVEN, SAYING: "And the software can look at the same characteristics of the face and use that to calculate a nose that is fitting for this particular face. And so what the software won't do is make a general nose; make on nose for all - it will make a characteristic nose that you can still alter towards the needs of the patients." The algorithm was designed at the Meaningful Interactions Lab, a research group of the University of Leuven and research institute IMEC. They're now working with surgeons and patients to optimise their tool for real-world use.