Plastic surgery to the'nines'

Beauty may well be in the eye of the beholder. But in the future it could be in the realm of mathematics.

Steven G. Krantz, Ph.D., professor and chair of mathematics at Washington University in St. Louis, is working with collaborators on the West Coat to create a system that will make the practice of reconstructive surgery analytical.

The system consists of a new type of three-dimensional scanner and sophisticated graphics software that uses wavelet analysis to analyze a face, recommend procedures, assess the difficulty of those procedures, and evaluate the outcome of the surgery.

Wavelet analysis is a sophisticated kind of harmonic analysis that is integral in analyzing and compressing data -- video, sound, or photographic, for instance --for a wide range of applications.

Krantz is working on the software package, Thomas Lu, Ph.D., an electrical engineer from Petaluma, Calif., developed the scanner. Michael Cedars, M.D., a plastic surgeon from Berkeley, Calif., is the philosophical guiding light of the project and is going to implement the system with his patients.

The system is not intended to replace plastic surgeons; rather, its purpose is to aid the plastic surgeon in making more precise evaluations and procedures in performing plastic surgery. It will help him see his problems in new ways, and to more accurately predict outcomes.

Did Cleopatra?

Plastic surgery has been practiced since the days of ancient Egypt, some 2,500 years ago. Many strides have been made in the field since the end of World War II, and especially in the past 25 years. For instance, it's now possible for plastic surgeons to perform a procedure to change the distance between your eyes. In spite of this sophistication, the plastic surgeon essentially relies on his wits when performing a breast lift or nose job.

"The basic elements of plastic surgery are rather primitive," said Krantz. "The primary conce

Contact: Tony Fitzpatrick
Washington University in St. Louis

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