Where Do We Look? Assessing Gaze Patterns in Breast Reconstructive Surgery with Eye-Tracking Technology

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Abstract

Background:

Aesthetics plays a large role in determining a successful outcome in plastic and reconstructive surgery. As such, understanding perceptions of favorable aesthetics is crucial for optimizing patient satisfaction. Eye-tracking technology offers an unbiased way of measuring how viewers evaluate breast reconstructions.

Methods:

Twenty-nine raters with varied plastic surgery experience were shown 20 images of breast reconstruction at various stages. Breasts were divided into those with nipples and no reconstruction scars, those with nipples and reconstruction scars, and those with reconstruction scars and no nipples. Raters viewed each image for 8 seconds to evaluate aesthetic outcomes. Eye-tracking equipment and software were used to track raters’ gaze and analyze the distribution of attention.

Results:

In breasts with reconstruction scars and no nipples, viewers spent 53.9 percent of the view time examining scars, whereas viewers’ attention was divided evenly in breasts with both reconstruction scars and nipples, spending 27.5 percent and 27.7 percent of view time examining the nipples and reconstruction scars, respectively. When examining complete reconstructions, viewers spent more time scanning the entire image before fixating on scars and spent less time on single-site fixation.

Conclusions:

Complete reconstructions, which notably include the final nipple-areola complex, appear to play an important role in restoring normal viewing parameters. In essence, completed breast reconstructions with nipple-areola complexes divert attention from extraneous surgical scars and lead viewers to assess the breasts more holistically. Eye-tracking technology provides a powerful link between objective gaze and viewer attention that may potentially be used to predict subjective aesthetic preferences.

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