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3D printers give plastic surgery patients preview of new face

Undergoing plastic surgery can be a big leap of faith even if you've done all your research and trust your doctor.

But imagine being able to see exactly what you would look like post-surgery -- before going under the knife. New technology is doing just that, allowing patients to see a preview of their new faces with 3D prints.

MirrorMe3D creates busts in perfect likeness of their customers -- only enhanced by a smaller nose or with a virtual cheek lift.

"If I didn't have this 3D print, I would not have underwent surgery," Emily Gorge told CBS New York.

According to some estimates, as many as one-third of all plastic surgery patients are unhappy with their results. The new technology, experts say, can give patients more realistic expectations.

"Particularly with the face, where there is so much anxiety and stress around changes," Dr. Oren Tepper, a plastic and reconstructive surgeon with Montefiore Health System, said.

As CBS New York's Dr. Max Gomez explains, "It's one thing to see it on a computer screen, but it's really another thing to see it here printed out in 3D like that."

"It helps both the patient and the doctor," Tepper said.

The process starts with a photograph that gets transformed into a hologram and results in a 3D model made out of plastic-like material called gypsum.

The hologram used to create the 3D model for the pre-op consultation can also be projected onto the patient's body during surgery using different colors to help doctors be more precise.

"Instead of coming in with a little magic marker and marking your face up that way, they can actually then project what they already have decided to do onto your face in the operating room and that gives them a much better idea of what needs to be done," Gomez said.

And this isn't just for cosmetic surgery, but also reconstructive surgeries, like that of 9-year-old Jonathan Bridgnanan, who lost an eye to cancer.

"I looked in the mirror and I saw how I get my eye back," Jonathan said.

The new technology helped Tepper rebuild the child's face and helped Jonathan understand that the damage was only temporary.

The 3D prints, which start at $60 and run up to $300, are even being purchased by people who don't want plastic surgery and just think it's a great piece of art.