The Return of International Spine Conferences
by: Dr. David Wong
After a 2-year covid induced suspension, improved vaccination rates allowed for an international meeting restart in November and December 2021.
The first international meeting was the Brussels International Spine Symposium (BISS) in November, 2021. The International faculty from the United States (including Dr. Wong), France, Switzerland, Italy and Spain were able to attend in person.
The topic for BISS this year was “The Failed Spine.” Lectures on this controversial subject ranged from the psychological impact of persistent pain to the cost of revision surgery and strategies for repeat decompressions and fusions in the cervical and lumbar spine as well as the sacro-iliac joint. Dr. Wong gave talks on revision lumbar fusions, identifying patients with the best prognosis for revision surgery, evaluating leg pain after an operation and strategies for dealing with surgical infections.
A highlight was the five-course meal at Dr. Robert Gunzberg’s (Past President of the International Society for the Study of the Lumbar Spine and Editor in Chief of the European Spine Journal) home by his gourmet cooking club rather than the typical faculty dinner at a hotel.
In December, 2021 the North American Spine Society (NASS), the Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland, and the Arab Spine Society co-sponsored the Spine Diploma Course Modules 1 & 3 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. 72 orthopaedic and neurosurgery residents, spine fellows and junior staff physicians from Europe, the Middle East and Africa attended. Seven NASS faculty participated, led by NASS Past Presidents Dr. JJ Abitbol and Dr. David Wong.
In addition to the lectures, there was a hands-on lab teaching the participants the finer skills of spinal surgery using the operating microscope as well as instrumentation systems such as pedicle screws and rods for lumbar fusion. Anatomic artificial models were used for the lab. The high-tech models can simulate surgical issues such as bleeding and spinal fluid leakages and detection of misplaced pedicle screws. The technology includes an artificial intelligence capability which monitors and analyzes each operator’s technique and the probability of attaining a good decompression of the nerves, as well as avoidance (or not) of complications.
The delayed (by Covid) World Expo 2020 was open in Dubai during the course. Dr. Wong was able to tour the 1,000+ acre site with pavilions from 192 countries as well as 10 themed pavilions devoted to the Expo 2000 motto “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future.” He came away very impressed with the exhibits and his personal pedometer logged around 15,000 steps at the Expo.
Clearly, Covid is still with us. However, Denver Spine Surgeons remains committed to research and education. The Brussels Symposium and the Dubai Diploma Course were excellent first steps in the international education effort. Hopefully the planned North American and International meetings and courses for 2022 will be able to proceed without further interruption.