Opportunities lie ahead at the 39th ‘hybrid’ ESCRS

The 39th Congress of the European Society for Cataract and Refractive Surgery (ESCRS) will meet at RAI Congress Centre in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, from 8–11 October 2021. The Congress will also be held virtually, making the chance to participate in some capacity a reality for all.

The 39th Congress of the European Society for Cataract and Refractive Surgery (ESCRS) plans to open its doors for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began at the RAI Congress Centre in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, from 8–11 October 2021. In-person attendance at this much-anticipated yearly event is sure to be an appealing prospect to many. And for those who are unable to attend in person, the Congress will also be held virtually, making the chance to participate in some capacity a reality for all.

So, what is in store for attendees this year over the four action-packed days? At the time of going to press, the ESCRS had not released the full, in-depth programme, however, a range of symposia, programmes, video sessions and workshops will be on offer and are discussed in this brief preview article. There will also be a daily exhibition, giving people the chance to experience the latest technologies in ophthalmology and providing the ideal location for ophthalmologists and researchers to network with their peers.

I spoke with two of Ophthalmology Times Europe’s® editorial advisory board members: Dr Albert Augustin, professor of ophthalmology and chairman of the Department of Ophthalmology at the Karlsruhe Municipal Hospital, Germany, and Dr Paolo Fazio, head of the refractive surgery service of the Catanese Centre of Medicine in Catania, Italy, to gain their insights into the topics on the agenda at this year’s event. Read on to find out more!

Friday 8 October

The Main Symposium to be held in the morning of the opening day of the Congress will be on the interesting-sounding topic “Managing Herpetic Keratitis”. There will also be a Clinical Research Symposium entitled “Stem Cells: Basics and Clinical Perspectives”, taking place after lunch. Two further symposia planned for the afternoon are the “JCRS” (Journal of Cataract and Refractive Surgery) and the “ISRS” (International Society for Refractive Surgery) sessions.

A Video Session due to be held between 5.15pm and 6.45pm will showcase “Challenging Cases”, a topic that proves popular every year at the ESCRS, as ophthalmologists seek to learn how to manage the more difficult patients and/or surgeries. Learning opportunities will also present themselves during the three courses planned for Day 1, whose topics have yet to be disclosed. Friday also marks the day the Exhibition Hall will open (between 9am and 5pm).

Saturday 9 October

The more junior ophthalmologists among attendees will have the chance to network and learn tips and tricks in the “Young Ophthalmologists Programme”, which begins on the Saturday. Dr Augustin comments: “This format is becoming increasingly popular, since young ophthalmologists, and especially young surgeons, now have a new platform to discuss problems or situations in the clinical practice which are unique for beginners and may not be a topic suitable for other formats. This is true for both scientific and surgical questions.”

Meanwhile, the Clinical Research Symposium will be on “Advances in Corneal Cross-Linking”, which is currently a very hot topic. “Corneal crosslinking is an increasingly standardised procedure, with new accelerated protocols that reduce the duration of treatment with similar results to standard ones,” says Dr Augustin.

Emphasising the importance of the “Selecting Advanced IOLs” Main Symposium taking place, Dr Fazio comments: “This is a Symposium that will probably be held for several ESCRS meetings to come since the list of advanced IOLs is becoming more crowded by the day.”

“MIGS: The Evidence-Based Approach” will be the topic of the second of the Main Symposia taking place on the Saturday. Dr Augustin says: “The introduction of MIGS has simplified the approach to glaucoma surgery. A review of recent evidence is important to improve the outcomes in terms of both IOP reduction and complication rate.”

For those wishing to participate in courses, attendees will have the option to either do so in person or virtually, with both types (seven in-person and two virtual) being on offer on Saturday. Free Paper sessions are also expected to place before the day wraps up with a video “Award Session”, between 6.30pm and 8pm.

Sunday 9 October

Sunday is shaping up to be a very busy day at the ESCRS, with two Symposia taking place in the morning—on “Imaging Techniques of the Anterior Segment and Beyond” and “Practical Digital Ophthalmology”—and a couple taking place after lunch.

Referring to the afternoon’s Research Symposia on “Cost Effectiveness and Value-based Healthcare: Have They Entered Ophthalmology?”, Dr Augustin points out: “Limitations on resources make the cost-effectiveness of any procedure very important for all of us. The information in this session should help ophthalmologists to engage with both payers and hospital administration staff.”

Regarding the Main Symposium covering “Enhancements after Refractive Surgery”, he comments: “Enhancement of refractive surgery is also a hot topic because refractive patients have very high expectations, which very often cannot be met with the first procedure. Thus, enhancement procedures can be necessary to produce superior results.”

“Euro Times Satellite Education Symposia” also appear in the schedule at various times throughout the day and there is also a Symposium entitled “IIIC” (Intraocular Lens Implant Club) at the end of the day. The IILC is a group of international specialists which will, no doubt, present the newest developments in IOL design. Dr Augustin believes that development in the field of IOLs is in “constant turmoil, with the introduction of ever more precise lenses for the correction of refraction errors and the management of presbyopia”.

With educative opportunities remaining a major theme at the Congress, nine courses, two of which are offered virtually, are planned to be held at varying times. The Video Session will cover surgical methods, which is always a good opportunity for ophthalmologists to hone their techniques and learn from peers. Sunday also marks the last day the Exhibition is open.

Monday 10 October

On the final day of the Congress, glaucoma is the subject of the two “Masterclasses” in the morning, which demonstrates the importance that cataract and refractive surgeons need to have a high level of understanding of this disease entity. There will also be a “Hyperopia Workshop”, a total of five in-person courses and a session discussing the work of the non-profit organisation Orbis Flying Eye Hospital; a teaching hospital on board a flight, which delivers eyecare to low- and middle-income countries.

“Don’t miss the ORBIS session,” Dr Augustin advises. “This charity project was established many years ago. You will see and hear the newest activities of this group.”

Dr Augustin also strongly advises attending the “CSCRS Symposium”. “This symposium of the ‘united cataract surgeons of the world’ will provide you with latest news on cataract surgery from a global perspective,” he says.

The final day will be rounded up, as has become something of a tradition at the ESCRS Congress, with the “Best of the Best”, a session that will enable attendees to go away with the main pearls of the event.

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