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Tuesday / June 18.
HomemiophthalmologyThe 44th Annual Scientific RANZCO Congress

The 44th Annual Scientific RANZCO Congress

With its comprehensive program of symposia, workshops, case presentations and keynote addresses, the annual Scientific Congress of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists (RANZCO) is regarded as the major educational event on the Australian and New Zealand Ophthalmologist’s calendar. Optometrist and academic, Dr. Laura Downie was invited to hear what the presenting Australian and international expert clinicians and researchers had to say.

The 2012 RANZCO Congress, held in late November last year at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, delivered a varied and stimulating education program accompanied by a fantastic social program.

With more than 1,300 registrants, aside from local delegates, there were attendees from almost 30 countries, including the United States, United Kingdom, Mexico, Fiji, China, South Africa, Solomon Islands and the Philippines.

The availability of a RANZCO Congress smart-phone app enabled delegates to have access to information about the Congress speakers, the educational program, industry exhibitors and social events. We could also contribute to discussions via Twitter, with plasma screens located around the session rooms and in the Exhibition Halls displaying all tweets about the Congress.

The ‘Rapid Fire Presentation’ series… allowed a five minute window for multiple lecturers to present unique clinical case presentations and research findings

Spectrum of Ophthalmologic Care

The scientific program encompassed the complete spectrum of ophthalmologic care. Over four consecutive days, simultaneous lecture streams covered topics that ranged from anterior eye disease to the management of neuro-ophthalmologic disorders.

The potential application of enhanced imaging technologies was comprehensively discussed in a symposium on: “Ocular imaging of the anterior segment: new frontiers.” A panel of clinical experts from New Zealand and the United States explored the use of digital slit lamp photography, Scheimpflug tomography, corneal topography and ocular coherence tomography for the diagnosis and monitoring of anterior segment disease. The benefits of these new technologies for documenting disease progression as well as providing a permanent record of the course of treatment were considered. Data concerning the relative reliability and repeatability of competing instrumentation were presented as well as the implications of these findings for co-managed care when different imaging systems may be adopted.

A number of sessions focussed on the ophthalmologic management of paediatric ocular disease. A lecture delivered by the international keynote speaker Professor Brenda Gallie, from the University of Toronto, Canada, highlighted the lack of evidence base regarding the optimal management of the potentially life-threatening paediatric tumour, retinoblastoma. Despite 9,000 newly-diagnosed cases of the condition worldwide each year and a global mortality rate of approximately 70 per cent, there are currently no randomised clinical trials that have evaluated best practice for its management. Other notable lectures discussed the surgical management of aphakic glaucoma, including evidence that early aggressive surgical management with the glaucoma drainage device improves long-term visual outcomes.

A fascinating symposium was held on the Sunday afternoon, entitled: “Stem and Progenitor Cells in Ophthalmology – Laboratory Interfacing with Clinical Practice”. The symposium consisted of a series of lectures that discussed the potential application of stem cell technology in the treatment of limbal stem cell deficiency and other debilitating ocular surface diseases. Current approaches to limbal cell transplantation were discussed, as was the likely future application of these techniques for restoring sight in eyes that, with current surgical procedures, would have limited prospects for achieving functional vision.

The lectures included the presentation of a case report involving a young, adult male who had incurred a severe alkaline ocular injury with complete limbal stem cell deficiency, resulting in circum-corneal opacification, corneal neovascularisation and debilitating visual loss. The combination of a penetrating keratoplasty and cultured limbal tissue transplantation resulted in a remarkable restoration of corneal integrity and vision for this patient. These exciting preliminary findings certainly suggest that cultured limbal tissue transplantation is an area of future growth for corneal specialty practice in ophthalmology.

Rapid Fire Presentations

Another feature of the RANZCO program was the ‘Rapid Fire Presentation’ series. These sessions allowed a five minute window for multiple lecturers to present unique clinical case presentations and research findings. The short duration of each lecture maintained a dynamic and exciting pace and enabled a single session to cover material on multiple, related clinical subject areas.

In the Glaucoma/Neuro-ophthalmology session, some notable topics included the use of eye tracking to characterise deficits in optic disc evaluation in ophthalmology trainees and the potential for selective laser trabeculoplasty to compromise the corneal endothelium. A number of individual presentations in the Retina rapid fire session related to clinical research evidence for the treatment of dry- and wet-age related macular degeneration, including early experiences with the nanosecond laser presented by the leading Victorian-based ophthalmologist Professor Robyn Guymer from the Centre for Eye Research Australia.

Specialty Interest Groups

The main conference program was accompanied by a number of associated meetings for related specialty interest groups, including an Ophthalmic Nurses Meeting, Ophthalmologist Business Skills Seminar, Retina Satellite Meeting and the Overseas Development Workshop. A Practice Manager’s program was offered over the duration of the Congress, exploring a range of topics relevant to the logistical and financial operations of an ophthalmology practice. Practical presentations discussed methods for managing the specific needs of different patient cohorts, procedures for informed consent and future changes in the direction of the healthcare system.

Poster Program

A Poster Program was displayed in the Exhibition Hall throughout the Congress and was featured on the Monday at a Wine and Cheese Poster Presentation evening. Over 150 scientific posters were exhibited, covering a diverse range of clinical areas that included cataract, cornea, epidemiology, ocular oncology, glaucoma and retinal disease. Some particularly interesting poster topics included: the potential use of the iPhone as a photographic tool in ophthalmologic practice, clinical saccadic assessment in neurologists compared with ophthalmologists and the effects of distraction on simulated posterior segmental surgical performance.

Extensive Industry Support

The Congress attracted significant industry support, with major sponsorship provided by Novartis/Alcon, Allergan Australia, Bayer Australia and Abbott Medical Optics. An extensive trade exhibition, featuring over 50 exhibitors, accompanied the conference program, allowing delegates the opportunity to meet with industry representatives and to trial the latest ophthalmologic equipment. This year RANZCO also established a “Senior Fellows Initiative” as part of the trade program, to recognise the significant contribution of senior fellows to the College. A special Senior Fellows lounge featured a series of presentations on some novel subjects, including “Clocks and watches and their history” and “The iPad: how does it work and will it benefit me?”

The RANZCO museum also had an exhibition area that was devoted to the history of ophthalmologic practice with a display that included a fascinating array of antique surgical instruments, ophthalmoscopes and ophthalmic medicines. The ‘central hub’ of the Exhibition Hall was furnished with comfortable lounges to create an environment conducive for informal networking; this area was designed to encourage delegates to access presenters after their sessions in order to ask questions or discuss topics raised during their formal presentations. Lectures from the main sessions were also screened live on large plasma screens.

Social Functions

A number of formal and informal social functions showcased some of Melbourne’s premier locations. The official welcome reception was held on the Saturday evening at Level 89, Eureka Tower, Southbank with more than 200 guests enjoying canapés and drinks while experiencing unparalleled 360-degree views of the Melbourne skyline from Australia’s tallest building.

On Sunday evening, the Opening Ceremony and President’s Reception was held at the Melbourne Convention Centre. This formal occasion acknowledged outstanding members of the College and also honoured the graduation of the new Fellows. Guests were treated to twilight views of the Yarra river and city skyline. The other major social event was the official Congress Dinner, which was described as “the magical event of the year”, an enchanting evening held at the magnificent neo-gothic Ormond College, University of Melbourne.