Understanding the amount of facial swelling and disproportion that occur after facial surgery could help researchers develop treatments to combat swelling and provide faster healing. Physicians have been unable to quantify the changes in soft tissue associated with inflammation after surgery. This means that they also have been unable to provide patients with accurate information regarding swelling changes.Dr. Chung How Kau from the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston and his colleagues from Cardiff University in the UK evaluated the use of 3-D laser scanning for determining facial changes after orthognathic surgery (repositioning of misaligned jawbones). As reported in the June issue of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, they tested 12 jaw surgery patients with their laser scanning system before surgery, and one day, one week, one month, three months and six months after surgery. Each patient sat on a stool and was asked to look into a mirror to help steady his or her face. The researchers then took light pattern images of each patient’s left and right sides of the face with two 3-D scanners from Konica Minolta of Tokyo. Each scanner emitted a 690-nm laser at 30 mW from a distance of between 600 and 2500 mm from the patient’s face for about 7.5 seconds. The dual-scanner system allowed them to capture images of the swelling for the whole face.The scientists overlaid the scans on top of each other, comparing each one to the final scan taken at six months. They used Rapidform 2004 PP2 software from Inus Technology Inc. of Seoul, South Korea, to analyze the overlapped scans for deviations and percentages of change. The amount of change was represented finally in color, with black areas indicating no change.The scientists calculated the exact amount of swelling changes for each patient. They discovered that the amount of swelling is greatest the first day after surgery; that two-jaw surgery results in more swelling but heals at a faster rate than single-jaw surgery; that about 60 percent of initial swelling is reduced after about a month; and that about 83 percent of the face recovers after three months.They believe that their results show that 3-D laser scanning can be used as an effective measurement tool for facial swelling changes after surgery.