Preview: ESCRS Congress in Vienna, Austria

Ophthalmology Times EuropeOphthalmology Times Europe July/August 2023
Volume 19
Issue 06
Pages: 30

This year’s meeting will include boxing rings, ball gowns and a full schedule of engaging new symposia

The exterior of the Messe Wien Exhibition & Congress Centre in Vienna, Austria. Image credit: ©uskarp2 –

The Messe Wien Exhibition & Congress Centre in Vienna, Austria, will open its doors to the 2023 ESCRS Congress. Image credit: ©uskarp2 –

This September, the European Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgeons (ESCRS) will hold its 41st annual meeting. The Messe Wien Exhibition & Congress Centre in Vienna, Austria, will open its doors to surgeons from around the world and welcome thousands more via on-demand virtual access to recorded sessions from the meeting. Attendees have a robust programme of sessions to choose from, which includes diverse symposia, in-depth panel discussions, and some surprises—such as the first ESCRS event to be held in a boxing ring.

Brand-New Programme Additions

Oliver Findl, president of the European Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgeons, highlighted parts of the programme that are brand-new this year. “For the first time ESCRS is showing proper ‘near-live’ surgery,” he said. “An ESCRS film team went to 9 different surgeons in 4 countries to film interesting operations such as novel IOLs, MIGS, combined Phaco/DMEK, and corneal refractive surgery. Contrary to live surgery, surgeons operate in their own environment, on their patients, so ethically this is more sound. Additionally, they chose challenging cases, which we usually do not see in live surgery.” Surgeons will be on a panel to discuss their cases. Additionally, the programme will include a series of live debates, where audience members can submit questions for the panellists in a fast-paced, “pros and cons” format. Read on to find out more about the new additions and which old favourites are returning.

Friday, 8 September

For those who would like to get a head start, the main congress will be preceded by ESCRS iNovation® Day on Friday, 8 September. It’s an eagerly-awaited part of the programme for many attendees, said Omid Kermani, MD, cofounder and trustee of the World College Of Refractive Surgery & Visual Sciences. Dr Kermani indicated many participants (including himself) pitched presentations for the kickoff event.

Burkhard Dick, secretary of ESCRS, concurred with Dr Kermani, and emphasised the strong sense of anticipation leading up to iNovation® Day. “For the second time, due to the enormous interest by participants last year and the overwhelmingly positive feedback, ophthalmologists, innovators and business experts from Europe and far beyond will come together and discuss both the challenges that ophthalmic surgery is going to face over the next decades and the possible solutions,” he said. “It is a meeting that certainly looks beyond the horizon and gives you a sense that no matter how advanced our field already is, the future will be even brighter.”

During the main conference on Friday, attendees can register for one of three subspecialty focuses. Cornea Day is co-organised by ESCRS and EUCornea; Glaucoma Day is co-organised by ESCRS and the European Glaucoma Society (EGS); and WSPOS Day is organised by the World Society of Paediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus. All three subspecialty focuses will have a special agenda of in-depth programming, beginning at 8:00 am.

At noon on Friday, the industry exhibition begins, showcasing the latest research and developments in the field and running concurrently with instructional courses. In the evening, attendees may reconvene for the day’s main symposium, titled Who Owns Ophthalmology? from 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm. Moderated by Paul Rosen and Michael Amon, topics include the effect of independent providers on training in academic institutions, valuation of a private practice and impact of external investors on ophthalmic care and emergencies in ophthalmology.

Saturday, 9 September

Saturday, 9 September begins with fanfare. Dr Johan Blanckaert, President of ABSym-BVAS in Brussels, Belgium, said he is most looking forward to the Opening Ceremony at 10:00 am, and the Binkhorst Medal Lecture which will follow immediately. Jorge L. Alió, MD, PhD, FEBOpthhal, will receive the Binkhorst Medaland present his lecture titled Corneal Regeneration: The Future of Corneal Surgery.

As part of the main programme, attendees may choose from a variety of “brush-up” sessions, wet labs and instructional workshops. Interactive courses will include a hands-on imaging device lesson and an advanced course on cataract surgery. Multiple instructional courses take a broader look at cataract and refractive surgery, and a few symposia will feature projections for the future of ophthalmology through 2030. Saturday evening will conclude with a Grand Ball, the first of its kind at an ESCRS congress, which necessitates formal wear and a willingness to waltz.

Sunday, 10 September

Throughout the day on Sunday, 10 September, speakers will take a critical look at sustainability in the industry. One of the main symposia, Making Our Surgery Greener, at 11:00 am, will spotlight operating room waste and innovations from low-income countries. At 2:30 pm, the congress will debut another new feature: the new “arena” series. This year, audiences can participate in the Arena Session on Sustainable Ophthalmology. President Findl described the new addition as “short debates on hot topics in a boxing ring where the audience can interactively ask questions and make comments.” Come prepared with questions and comments.

Dr Blanckaert highlighted a special recommendation for young ophthalmologists on Sunday evening. “For young ophthalmologists I would recommend the SOS in Corneal Refractive Surgery session,” he said. “We of a ‘certain age’ grew up with the challenges of corneal refractive surgery, but young ophthalmologists need to be taught how to handle these situations. So, see you in Vienna.”

Monday, 11 September

ESCRS has labelled Monday, 11 September as Smart & @ctive Monday, so attendees should be ready for a wide variety of programming. In brush-up sessions, anterior segment surgeons can attend courses on retina care by Euretina, glaucoma care by EGS, and oculoplastics by the European Society of Ophthalmic Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery (ESOPRS). At 10:30 am, Marie-José Tassignon, MD, PhD, FEBOS-CR, will present the Heritage Lecture, titled The Enigma of the Anterior Interface. A special “digital track” during the day features the symposium Continents Going Digital and a can’t-miss session on the hottest topic this year: artificial intelligence. Paolo Fazio, MD, of Catania, Sicily, Italy, gave his recommendation. “In an attempt to have a glimpse of the future, I would attend the Artificial Intelligence in Ophthalmology symposium,” Dr Fazio said. The session will be held from 2:15 pm to 4:15 pm on Monday. Dr Fazio called the symposium “an unavoidable topic since AI will affect, in one way or another, every aspect of our future in a manner difficult to foresee.”

Tuesday, 12 September

To allow for travel time, the programme on the final day of the conference, Tuesday, 12 September, will end in early afternoon. But there’s still plenty to do. Early-morning workshops will run concurrently with an 8:30 am symposium on Getting to the Roots of challenging ophthalmic topics, such as posterior capsule opacification and IOL power calculation. Fittingly, a session on Taking Care of Postoperative Complications will round out the main symposia at 11:00 am, leaving ophthalmologists with everything they need to know for ocular aftercare. At the end of the meeting day, attendees can catch up on anything they missed in a 2-hour Best of the Best session from 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm, featuring videos, papers and posters from the full ESCRS congress.

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