Sunday, October 25, 2009

AAO-PAAO joint meeting is big draw for industry

The success of an international ophthalmological meeting can be gauged not only by the strength and depth of the scientific presentations but also by the number of industry exhibitors who take space in the exhibition hall.

The popularity of this year's AAO meeting can be gauged by the fact that the exhibition is spread over three venues in Moscone North, South and West where over 400 companies are showcasing their latest products and ideas.

Among them are Abbott Medical Optics, Alcon, Canon, Carl Zeiss Meditec, Croma, DORC, Haag Streit, Nidek, Oculus, Opko, Oertli and Rayner.

Make sure to try and pay a visit to all of the exhibitors, including the European Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgeons whose booth is in Moscone North N4046.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Early birds

For many attendees the meeting starts before the meeting starts, in a manner of speaking. That is to say, the subspecialty sessions begin in advance of the general conference, offering a smorgasbord of debate and didactic material in the areas of refractive surgery, retina, glaucoma, and paediatrics. Your EuroTimes reporter spent most of the time camping at the refractive subspecialty day sessions. This consisted of two full days of lectures and debates covering all aspects of the field. The sessions provided a great overview of current debates in many controversial areas including paediatric refractive surgery, refractive surgery on keratoconus suspect eyes, problems with multifocal IOLs, femtosecond laser approaches to cataract surgery, intrastromal implants, and the latest info on collagen cross-linking.

Did you wash your hands?

H1N1 precautions are in effect, as conventions are an ideal germ-sharing opportunity.

Sunny and warm

Attendees at this year’s AAO might be forgiven for missing a session or two to grab some rays outside, as the city experiences near tropical weather, blues skies and 25° C. Add to that the many popular tourist activities, the cable car to Fishermen’s wharf, shopping at Union Square, dim sum in Chinatown, bay cruises, it is no surprise that SF continues to be a favourite convention destination for people from around the world.

This weekend alone, visitors have endless nightlife opportunities as well. Whatever your musical tastes, you can hear opera,the Black Eyed Peas, David Sanborn on sax, Neil Young at a fundraiser, and blues great John Lee Hooker laying it down.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Challenging times for ophthalmologists in San Francisco

EuroTimes will be reporting from the 2009 joint meeting of AAO/PAAO in San Francisco from Friday October 23 to Tuesday October 27.

As you can see from our picture (taken outside the Moscone Convention Centre on the corner of Howard and 3rd) the sun is splitting the stones but that won't deter delegates from attending a packed schedule of lectures and instructional courses.

Meeting highlights will be reported in the December/January and February issues of the magazine and also on our website at in our Breaking News section.

This has been a difficult time for some ophthalmologists who are facing increasing pressure in the face of the global economic recession.

One of the highlights of this year's AAO/PAAO session will be the Practice Management programme which will help advise doctors, practice managers and other practice partners on how they can tackle some of the financial challenges they are facing and will continue to face in the future.

As always, however, the major focus will be on how ophthalmologists can improve their clinical services and patient care and this meeting promises to offer many new insights into new techniques and new technologies.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Surgical simulator demonstration wins ESCRS Video Competition

The overall winning entry of this year’s ESCRS Video competition was a presentation by Jansuke Akura MD Japan, titled “KITARO, Handy Surgical Simulator for Dry Lab and Wet Lab”. Dr Akura’s video described the KITARO system and illustrated its potential as a tool for teaching phacoemulsification surgery. The design of the surgical simulator allows students to practise instrument manipulation at the desk prior to wet lab instruction. It also provides a useful alternative to porcine eyes for practising phacoemulsification in the wet lab.

Dr Akura is pictured above receiving his award from ESCR President Dr Paul Rosen and incoming President Dr Jose Guell.


ESCRS President Dr Paul Rosen says society will continue to grow

Significant investments in education and support for trainee doctors, joint meetings with sister ophthalmologic societies and the successful launch of the online European Registry of Quality Outcomes for Cataract and Refractive Surgery (EUREQUO) are all elements of ESCRS’s continuing commitment to meet the changing needs of surgeons and patients, ESCRS President Paul Rosen FRCS, FRCOpth, told delegates at the opening ceremony of the XXVII Congress in Barcelona.
To address the requirements of a changing membership base and establish clear policies on issues such as education and engagement with emerging and developing markets, the ESCRS Board last year led a review of the society’s structure and strategy.
“As a result of this exercise,” said Dr Rosen, “the new committees have this year begun working with new aims and goals which will, I hope, enable the ESCRS to continue to grow and to successfully meet the needs and expectations of its members. This includes significant investment in education, including e-learning opportunities and support for trainee doctors, especially from emerging European markets,” he said.

ESCRS declares 2010 European Year of LASIK

In celebration of the 20th anniversary of the first LASIK surgeries, ESCRS has designated 2010 as the European Year of LASIK. Approximately 3.5 million LASIK surgeries are performed every year for the correction of myopia, hyperopia and astigmatism.
The European Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgeons, the leading professional society for European refractive surgeons is uniquely placed to lead this celebration, said ESCRS President Paul Rosen.
LASIK pioneer Ioannis Pallikaris, past ESCRS President and Binkhorst Medal lecturer at this year ESCRS Congress in Barcelona, will highlight European Year of LASIK with an Anniversary Congress in Crete, Greece in July 2010.
The ‘father’ of modern LASIK, Greek ophthalmologist Ioannis Pallikaris MD, PhD, said that the decision of the ESCRS to designate 2010 as the Year of LASIK is an important recognition of the significance of LASIK in the history of ophthalmology.
"I am very pleased that the ESCRS has designated 2010 as the Year of LASIK. This was something I have been in favour of for some time now and I fully support this initiative to celebrate what was essentially a European breakthrough,” said Dr Pallikaris.
Dr Pallikaris, who was the first surgeon to use the hinged flap technique in 1990, said that 2010 is a particularly opportune time to mark this important event.
“In July next year we will be holding the 10th Aegean Cornea Meeting and the celebration of the 20th anniversary of Vardinoyiannion Eye Institute of Crete (VEIC), and it is fitting that these events coincide with the 20th anniversary of the first LASIK procedure here in Crete. This will be an opportunity for ophthalmologists and researchers to take stock of the past, present and future of LASIK in particular and developments in anterior segment surgery in general. I think we should see this Year of LASIK as an opportunity to recognise and celebrate what was essentially a European breakthrough and I have no doubt that the ESCRS will play an active role in promoting the Year and helping to raise awareness about this achievement,” he said.

* Dr Pallikaris is pictured above at the Binkhorst Medal presentation with Dr Paul Rosen

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Dr Kaladevi Ranganathan of India wins EuroTimes John Henahan prize

This year’s recipient of the John Henahan Prize is Indian ophthalmologist, Kaladevi Ranganathan MD.

The prize is named in honour of the founding editor of EuroTimes, who edited the magazine from 1996 to 2001. The competition is open to ophthalmologists under 40 years of age and the prize is awarded to the author of the winning essay on a given theme.

Dr Ranganathan’s entry, "Judgement comes from experience", concerned her experience with the case of a six-year-old girl who very nearly had a disabling and stigmatising loss of vision in one eye following a fireworks accident, but who through timely and resourceful intervention now has normal vision and a good quality of life.

Dr Emanuel Rosen, chairman ESCRS Publications Committee, said the the standard of the entries for the 2009 EuroTimes John Henahan Prize was if anything even higher than the impressive 2008 entries and all the authors should be congratulated on their efforts.

"The prize will not only bring satisfaction to the winner and credit to all the contributors but may enhance all their prospects of pursuing a medical writing aspect to their future careers. We look to their further contributions to EuroTimes and the Journal of Cataract & Refractive Surgery,"

Dr Rosen, who is pictured above presenting Dr Ranganathan with her prize.

Thousands of delegates gathered in Barcelona, Spain this week for the XXVII Congress of the ESCRS.

This year’s congress, which also incorporated the World Congress of Paediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus (WCPOS), was held in the CCIB Congress Centre in the vibrant capital of Catalonia.

The event attracted a record number of delegates with over 5,500 delegates attending the ESCRS congress and over 900 delegats at the WCPOS Congress.

WCPOS and ESCRS bring the best people together in one room

This year’s ESCRS meeting in Barcelona offers an unprecedented opportunity for ophthalmologists from around the world to avail of interactive learning with their paediatric specialist colleagues. The meeting marks a first, collaboration with paediatric ophthalmology in the form of the first World Congress of Paediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus (WCPOS).

This is a lively time in the field of paediatric ophthalmology, with important new studies in many key areas including genetics, strabismus, retina, cataract and refractive surgery. The WCPOS meeting highlights controversies and innovations in the field that will be of interest to specialists and general ophthalmologists alike.

“The idea of putting the best people together in one room to talk about paediatric ophthalmology was irresistible. This is the beginning of what we hope will be regular opportunities for people to get together and talk. By getting together we can communicate with each other, take the skills and techniques that the adult [ophthalmologists] have, and the information that the paediatric specialists have, put those together and end up with something even better,” David Granet MD, director of the Ratner Clinic, University of California, San Diego, and co-director of WCPOS, told EuroTimes.

Dr Ken Nischal, consultant ophthalmic surgeon at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children and Moorfields Eye Hospital (Hon) and co-director of WCPOS concurred.

“We all have strengths in different areas. Refractive surgeons are very good at refractive surgery, but in the child, it’s the visual rehabilitation after the refractive surgery that contributes to the success of the operation that the refractive surgeon has performed,” said Dr Nischal. “By increasing communications or links with paediatric ophthalmologists, who are good at visual rehabilitation in children, the refractive surgeons can increase the outcome or success of their own procedures,” he said.

The WCPOS offers a full menu of scientific sessions, keynote lectures, instructional courses, and satellite symposia over its two-day run. While planning the programme Dr Granet and Dr Nischal were careful to invite speakers from around the world in order to provide the widest possible perspective on current issues in the field. As a result the conference, with registrations far exceeding expectations, should prove to be an excellent gauge of trends and current and future concerns in paediatric ophthalmology.

“We’re very excited by the level of freedom that the ESCRS has given us to be able to have controversies, case presentations and discussions - every manner of learning experience - at the conference. We’re giving moderators the freedom to run sessions the way they would want to experience them if they were in the audience. We’re going beyond the format of just getting up and talking at people for 10 minutes, we’re making it more dynamic and interactive. We have experts from every region moderating the sessions. What we are doing has never been done before,” noted Dr Granet.

Research papers and posters are only a small part of what’s on offer. In addition to hundreds of free papers, lectures and posters there are three simultaneous tracks of instructional courses each day. These cover all areas of the field, including strabismus techniques, controversies in nystagmus, amblyopia, genetic disease, uveitis and beyond. The meeting was organised so that common areas of interest wouldn't conflict in the schedule, allowing attendees to visit both lectures and courses of interest.

The duties of ‘adult’ ophthalmologists and paediatric specialists overlap in different ways in different parts of the world, creating some controversies. Those controversies were discussed on Saturday in a joint symposium of the ESCRS/WCPOS on Paediatric Cataract & Refractive Surgery.

“We wanted to get the best people from both worlds together. To me the controversy is not that controversial because the people who can do this are the ones who should be doing it. There is no doubt that the paediatric people know the paediatric side better and the cataract people know the cataract side better. But there is a way to communicate better, and that is what this is about. We might not talk so much about where we disagree or differ, but actually where we can get together. We want to find the common ground, and help each other develop the skills, so that the child ends up with the best possible care,” said Dr Granet.

One area that is of great interest to both paediatric and adult ophthalmologists is refractive surgery. Refractive surgery is still considered something of a taboo on the paediatric side of ophthalmology, but that is changing. For example, early clinical experience indicates that laser refractive surgery can be very useful in correcting higher order aberrations in children for whom no other options exist. Laser refractive surgery is also finding a place in the treatment of high refractive errors, amblyopia and anisometropia.

“We may wake up in 15 years and find that refractive surgery is the standard of care in paediatric ophthalmology. The problem is getting from where we are to where we need to go. We need to talk to refractive surgeons who are very comfortable with refractive surgery, and get them together with paediatric surgeons who are uncomfortable with refractive surgery. We’re worried about these kids who will have to live with this for 70 years. We are worried that once we open that door that there will be a stampede of parents running through the door who want their 11-year-old kids to get rid of their glasses for mild myopia. We want to avoid lasering anyone too frequently, too young and in the wrong settings,” emphasised Dr Granet.

* Dr Granet and Dr Nischal are pictured above at the opening ceremony of WCPOS

Sunday, June 14, 2009

SOE Charamis Medal winner Dr Richard Collin discusses new frontiers in oculoplastic surgery

Nothing is impossible.

This was the keynote message from Dr Richard Collin, after he was awarded the Charamis Medal by SOE president Gabriel van Rij (see picture above) at the opening ceremony of the 17th Congress of the European Society of Ophthalmology in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

Dr Collin's theme was the Past, Present and Future of Oculoplastic Surgery. As Dr Collin pointed out Oculoplastic Surgery is as old as civilisation itself.

"Why can I make that claim?" asked Dr Collin. "Oculoplastic Surgery is tied in with trachoma which has been the blinding scourge of civilisation since civilisation has existed."

The knowledge of the early pioneers has been passed on over the centuries and now the future of oculoplastic surgery may be reshaped by a new educational paradigm that will deliver care into areas of the world where the procedures are most needed, said Dr Collin.

Dr Collin, head of the adnexal service, Moorfields Eye Hospital, London, UK suggested that by adapting Internet-based teaching methods, it might be possible to remotely train operators to perform bilamellar tarsal rotation, the currently favoured, evidence-based procedure for surgical intervention. The operators, who may not even need to be doctors, will be taught, assessed, and monitored by world experts on the faculty at leading teaching institutions, said Dr Collin.

In addition to using Internet-based learning tools, the educational experience would involve practice using surgical simulators that are designed first to identify areas of competency and deficiency based on assessment of the operator’s hand movements and then to suggest necessary corrective measures.

“With trachoma we have learned to control the disease process with hygiene and azithromycin, and we can cure cicatricial entropion surgically, but that still requires a suitably trained operator,” said Dr Collin.

“Thanks to the help of congresses such as the SOE and collaboration with the ICO, we are trying to bring this type of Internet-based learning to improve the standard of surgery delivered away from the major institutions,” said Dr Collin.

In his look to the future, Dr Collin also suggested that with effective treatments to control primary disease processes, the need for reconstructive oculoplastic surgery in the management of some conditions may even be eliminated. Progress in this area is already being made.

For example, there are positive reports regarding medical treatment with the topical immune response modifier imiquimod for lentigo maligna, and understanding of the genetic basis of basal cell naevoid syndrome has led to the exciting possibility of halting tumour development based on targeting the PTCH gene.

In addition, early intervention with immunosuppressive therapy can sometimes prevent the need for orbital decompression in patients with thyroid disease-related orbitopathy, said Dr Collin.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

EuroTimes breaking the latest news from SOE

The EuroTimes team is in Amsterdam, The Netherlands today where we are producing our daily newsletter, ET Today, and daily Breaking News online from the 17th Congress of the European Society of Ophthalmology (SOE).

The hot topics from the congress will be posted in the Breaking News section on our website Full reports on some of the most important presentations will be covered in the September and October issues of EuroTimes.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Win a travel bursary for the XXVII ESCRS Congress in Barcelona

The John Henahan Prize for 2009 was launched at the 13th ESCRS Winter Meeting in Rome. John was the visionary editor and guiding light of EuroTimes from 1996 to 2001 and his work has inspired a generation of young doctors and journalists, many of whom continue to work for EuroTimes.
Ophthalmologists who are members of the ESCRS and who are under 40 years of age are eligible to apply for the prize. Entrants are invited to write a 1,000-word article on the theme My Best Patient; My Worst Patient. The closing date for entries is Friday June 26, 2009.
Dr Emanuel Rosen, chairman ESCRS Publications Committee, Dr Jose Guell, medical editor, EuroTimes, Mr Sean Henahan, editor, EuroTimes, Robert Henahan, contributing editor, EuroTimes and Paul McGinn, editor, EuroTimes will judge the entries.
The winning entrant will receive a travel bursary worth E1, 000 to attend the XXVII ESCRS Congress in Barcelona, 2009 in September and the winner will be presented with a special trophy at the Young Ophthalmologists Programme in Barcelona. We will publish the winning entry in the October edition of EuroTimes.
Entries, which must be accompanied by an ESCRS membership number, should be sent to Colin Kerr, Executive Editor, and EuroTimes at The decision of the judges is final and no correspondence will be considered once they have announced their decision.

•The winner of the John Henahan Prize for 2008 was Dr Shiu Ting Mak of Hong Kong. Dr Mak is pictured above receiving her prize from Dr Emanuel Rosen

Saturday, May 16, 2009

EURETINA lecturer calls for new research initiatives

Professor Eberhart Zrenner MD, Director of the institute for ophthalmic research and the Centre for Ophthalmology and head of the neuro-ophthalmology unit in Tuebingen Germany and chairman of the European Vision Institute, presented his EURETINA lecture which sought to answer the question of whether Can We Overcome the Fragmented European Research Space in Ophthalmology?

Dr Zrenner noted that ophthalmologists have reached a defining moment in the history of their discipline not only because there are so many new possibilities for diagnosis and therapy offered by new discoveries in molecular and cell biology, but also because the world’s aging population means that there will be a greater number of people than ever before with sight-threatening diseases.

However, he said that the ability of ophthalmology to answer that growing problem is compromised by the fragmentary nature of ophthalmic research in Europe, and by the lack of awareness among healthcare policy makers of the contribution ophthalmic research can make, and of the dire consequences that will likely occur if that field of endeavour is neglected due to lack of funds.

He noted that a Carlos Von Bonhurst, a consultant for European Community in Brussels, has said that there is no other field in medicine that is more fragmented in Europe than Ophthalmology. In fact, there are more than 40 national and international ophthalmological associations in Europe. While those organisations are essential for the continuity of clinical research, what is lacking is an organisation to provide a single voice to defend the interests of ophthalmological research before the EU.

“The result of this plethora of ophthalmic societies is a low impact of ophthalmology in the making of research policies. We have a low visibility compared with other area, like neuroscience oncology or vascular sciences. There is a lack of structured proposals that will enable us to get enough money to form huge networks working together on European-wide trials,” Dr Zrenner said.

Another type of fragmentation that occurs in ophthalmic research is a lack of communication between those engaged in basic science inspired by clinical findings in ophthalmological practice and those engaged in clinical research.

“The challenge is really to improve our acceptance of vision research among the scientific community we are not just a little eye which may be a part of the brain we are more and we can make that point only if we speak with a loud voice and in a harmonized focused manner in order to avoid fragmentation. We have to avoid duplication of research with multiple small trials examining identical issues instead of one large trial. We also have to merge the two cultures of basic science on the one hand and clinical science on the other,” Dr Zrenner said.

To that end, Dr Zrenner and his associates have founded the European Vision Institute, an organization whose aim is to lobby for research funding for ophthalmology, establish study protocols, and foster collaboration between different research organizations. The fruits of their labour so far include EVI-Genoret and RETNET, projects investigating the genetic factors of retinal disease.

More recently they have obtained funding for and have established Eurovisionet which aims to provide a scientific integration of European vision research and have established an online portal to which all engaged in ophthalmic research can contribute.

“Yes, we can overcome the fragmented nature of ophthalmic research in Europe if we want to and we get together.

Presenting Dr Zrenner with his EURETINA lecture award, EURETINA co-founder and general secretary Gisbert Richard MD (see picture above with EURETINA president Jose Cunha Vaz)noted that the Clare Jung foundation that sponsored the award do so because they are convinced that the greatest success in fighting blindness will be found in the field of retina and optic nerve research.

Friday, May 15, 2009

EURETINA is getting bigger and better

In his opening speech at the opening ceremony of this year’s EURETINA Congress, the president of the European Society of Retina Specialists, Professor José Cunha-Vaz MD (pictured above with incoming president Bill Aylward) expressed his satisfaction with the growth of the society and the continuing improvement of the Congress from year to year.

“I am particularly pleased with the way our society has expanded and that it is offering participants what they want and we would like to continue going in that direction. Bill Aylward from the UK, who will assume the presidency next year, will certainly carry that work further with even better congresses,” he said.
He credited the Congress organisers Agenda with making the congress run more smoothly and efficiently. He noted that in a move to integrate the different fields of ophthalmology next year’s EURETINA meeting will be held in PARIS directly before and at the same venue as the Annual Congress of the European Society of Cataract and Refractive surgeons

“The fact that the largest subspecialty societies are coming together will be an impressive opportunity for the industry and for anterior and posterior segment surgeons to gain more exposure to each other’s disciplines.

He noted that the European Society of Retina Specialists has recently signed an agreement for Ophthalmologica, one of the oldest and most prestigious European scientific journals in ophthalmology to become the society’s official scientific journal. Starting in 2010 it will have Professor Cunha-Vaz as its editor in chief.
“This is something we can offer our members to allow us to express our scientific studies and somehow create a better, solid basis for our scientific development, he added.

There followed a Musical Interlude by young Portuguese pianist João Bettencourt da Câmara. Born in 1988, he has been performing piano recitals since the age of seven. During his first international tour to the USA in 2007 he received much enthusiastic critical acclaim, being compared to a young Sviatoslav Richter, widely acknowledged as the greatest classical pianist of the 20th century. For his first performance during the EURETINA opening ceremony he performed Schumann’s famous Etudes Symphonique, a piece which takes a simple theme into variations that range in mood and tempo from sombre to playful and concludes with a jubilant allegro brillante based on a new theme.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Aberrations provide important cues for accommodation

Natural accommodation is a dynamic process that is aided by aberrations that give the eye cues as to which direction to focus, Ioannis G Pallikaris MD, PhD told attendees of the innovator session at the 2009 ASCRS annual meeting held at the Moscone Centre (pictured above) in San Francisco, US.

“Aberrations are necessary to guide accommodation,” Dr Pallikaris said. The defocus images of lenses without aberrations are identical whether they are over or under corrected, where as they are different in a lens with aberrations, he explained. Astigmatic, higher order, spherical and chromatic aberrations all play a role.

In patients with presbyopia, accommodation is slower and less stable than in younger patients. This leads to fatigue in older patients and the image on the retina is rapidly and constantly changing, particularly in near vision. This constantly changes the refractive qualities and aberrations in the lens.

Presbyopic correction with multifocal or accommodative lenses is a static compromise that cannot duplicate this process, Dr Pallikaris noted. It results in acceptable distance and near visual acuity at the expense of vision quality. “Achieving super vision is not a goal,” he said. Ophthalmologists must use their understanding and judgement to make the lens choice that best meets patient needs.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Patrick Condon receives Honoured Guest award from ASCRS

ESCRS founding member and former Board member Patrick I Condon MD, Waterford, Ireland, was recognised today for his life-long contributions to the profession with an Honoured Guest award at the ASCRS opening ceremony. “He is noted for his contributions to anterior segment binocular surgery,” said Alan S Crandall MD, Salt Lake City, Utah, US, incoming ASCRS president.

“My wife and I thank you so much,” said Dr Condon. He also thanked the ASCRS for its participation in the annual ESCRS-ASCRS joint forum, which is always a source of lively debate and differing opinions over current ophthalmic surgery controversies. Following the ceremony Dr Condon departed the stage to tickle the ivories with his jazz band, Paddy Condon and the White Stars, for the enjoyment of all outside the exhibition hall.

Also honoured was Endre A Balazs MD, originally from Budapest, who was inducted into the ASCRS Hall of Fame for his groundbreaking work in identifying the chemistry of the vitreous body, leading to the development of viscoelastics.

MEACO delegates get ready for Barcelona

The ESCRS booth in the exhibition centre at Manama, Bahrain saw plenty of traffic during the 10th MEACO Congress.

Pictured above is Rachel Wiseman who was busy fielding enquiries from delegates who are looking forward to attending the XXVII ESCRS Congress in Barcelona, Spain.

For further information on Barcelona and all other ESCRS activities, visit the ESCRS website at

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Coordinated effort needed to fight blindness

A major coordinated effort is needed to tackle the underlying causes of blindness in children, particularly in poorer and underdeveloped regions where the needs are greatest, according to a leading expert in the field.

Prof Clare Gilbert, International Centre for Eye Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, told delegates attending the MEACO Congress that blindness in children is a major, lifelong problem in every part of the world, impacting not just the affected children, but also their families, their communities and countries.

“It is the greatest problem where resources are least,” said Dr Gilbert, who said that WHO statistics show that there are about 1.4 million blind children in the world.

“When we consider that the total figure for adult blindness is 45 million, this figure looks like a very small number. But one has to bear in mind that these children have a lifetime of blindness ahead of them.”

Dr Gilbert said that successive studies have demonstrated the clear link between childhood blindness and poverty.

“More than 70 per cent of these blind children live in poor and very poor countries and there are two principal reasons for this: first, the population of children in poorer regions is much higher, and secondly, the prevalence of blindness in children in these countries is also much higher,” she said.

She noted that the available evidence seems to suggest that the majority of these 1.4million children are either born blind or become blind before six years of age.

“This tells us that in terms of controlling childhood blindness that we really need to focus our efforts and resources on children aged zero to five,” she said.

Record attendance at 10th MEACO Congress

Ophthalmologists from around the world gathered in Manama, Bahrain for the 10th International Congress of the Middle East African Council of Ophthalmology (MEACO).

The congress was officially opened by Dr Faisal bin Yacoob Alhamer, Minister of Health of the Kingdom of Bahrain, who said his country was very proud and gratified to be hosting such a prestigious international meeting and he looked forward to similar fruitful cooperation with MEACO in the future.

The chairman of the MEACO Board, His Royal Highness Prince Abdulaziz Ahmed Al Saud, welcomed the assembled delegates to the Kingdom of Bahrain and expressed his belief that the five-day meeting would prove a fruitful and informative forum for the international ophthalmic community. He noted that with almost 3,000 delegates registered for this year’s meeting, the congress continues to go from strength to strength.

Next to address the delegates was Dr Abdulaziz AlRajhi, president of MEACO (pictured above) who stressed the importance of forging partnerships both regionally and internationally in pursuit of excellence. He highlighted the strong collaboration between MEACO and associations such as the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), the International Council of Ophthalmology (ICO) and the European Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgeons (ESCRS).

“Our aim is to bring the best that the world has to offer to our members in the region in order to expand their knowledge and experience and contribute to the advancement of eye care services in the Middle East and Africa,” he said.

After thanking the local organisers and all of the generous sponsors for their continuing support for MEACO, Dr AlRajhi concluded his speech by stressing that actions, not words, are the true hallmark of achievement.

“Napoloeon Bonaparte once said that if you wish to be a success in the world, promise everything and deliver nothing. But in MEACO we like to say that people may doubt what we say, but they will believe what we do,” he said.

Bruce Spivey MD, president of the ICO, then addressed the assembly.

Stressing the strong bonds that have been built up over the years between the ICO and MEACO, he said that such cross-currents underscore the vitality of a discipline such as ophthalmology.

“We have all, as never before, borne witness to the dynamic relationships of the social and economic realities of the present-day world. The ICO is apolitical by conscious decision and behaviour. This meeting in Bahrain, a place inhabitated since ancient times and a crossroads to many cultures, is a wondeful reflection of the beauty and cosmopolitan nature of this region,” he said.

Dr Michael Brennan, speaking on behalf of the AAO, said that MEACO is perpetuating the proud tradition of the Gulf region and Mesopotamia as the crucible of medical science.

“This tradition continues as MEACO, and its forerunner PAACO, celebrates 20 years of providing the infrastructure for ophthalmologists to assemble to share knowledge and skill. More distinctively over recent years, MEACO has expanded its range of services and value to members and affiliate organisations in a variety of ways,” he said.

In addressing the communication challenges of globalisation and the technological revolution, Dr Brennan saluted MEACO’s efforts to collaborate with the AAO and the ICO in introducing a variety of international educational and informational content to its members.

Concluding the opening ceremony, Dr Ebtisam Al Alawi, chairperson of the Local Organizing Committee, said that the number of participants registered for the 2009 MEACO Congress, estimated in excess of 2,000 delegates, had surpassed all expecations.

“The meeting continues to evolve and develop. This distinguished gathering allows us to share experiences and exchange knowledge regarding the latest advances in ophthalmology and covers all the subspecialties of ophthalmology including epidemiology and prevention of blindness. I am very pleased to see delegates representing countries from all over the world, which shows how truly international this meeting has become,” she said.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Rock 'n' roll phaco hits the right note

An alternative phacoemulsification procedure, dubbed "rock 'n' roll phaco" by its originator, offers surgeons faster emulsification of the nucleus of the lens without compromising safety, according to a German study.

Detlef Uthoff MD told delegates attending the 13th ESCRS Winter Meeting in Rome that the "rock 'n' roll" technique is the culmination of over 30 years of experimenting with different approaches to phacoemulsification.

“This is my favourite technique for both mono and bimanual phacoemulsification. It is characterized by primarily fragmenting or sculpting the nucleus, which is then nudged 180 degrees and rotated along its sagittal axis with the help of the phacoemulsification tip. Later the nucleus is stabilised by a spatula and then emulsified from its posterior side. During emulsification the nucleus is held under the iris with the help of spatula,” he said.

Dr Uthoff said that the technique, which demands a slightly longer learning curve to master than traditional methods, permits a faster and safer emulsification of the lens nucleus and can be used with all grades of cataract. He estimated that his modified technique reduces the ultrasound time by up to 30 per cent.

Cornea Day was officially opened by Dr Jose Guell (pictured above), chairperson of the ESCRS Congress Committee.

For further updates read the March and April issues of EuroTimes and visit our Breaking News section on

Femtosecond laser enhances keratoplasty

The femtosecond laser offers several clear advantages for lamellar and penetrating keratoplasty procedures, according to an Italian surgeon speaking at the 13th ESCRS Winter Meeting in Rome, Italy.

Opening the first session at the annual Cornea Day, Emilio Balestrazzi MD gave an overview of how the femtosecond laser is changing the face of lamellar and penetrating keratoplasty surgery.

“The IntraLase femtosecond laser (AMO) is a dynamic surgical tool which enables surgeons to perform valid, safe and repeatable lamellar and penetrating keratoplasty techniques. However, we must be cautious in the application of this exciting technology and remember that it is still a work in progress,” he said.

For femtosecond laser assisted deep anterior lamellar keratoplasty (femto-DALK) procedures, Dr Balestrazzi said that the goal is to utilise a surgical option that could be compared in results to manual DALK, preserving the health and integrity of the corneal endothelium.

Using this approach, a clear graft was achieved in all patients one week after surgery and confocal microscopy evaluation showed no significant differences in pre- and postoperative endothelial pattern and density. Two patients experienced a perforation during the IntraLase cut which required a subsequent penetrating keratoplasty.

Turning to femtosecond laser assisted penetrating keratoplasty, Dr Balestrazzi said that this technique is designed to create a simpler and repeatable surgical technique to generate less astigmatism, greater scar strength and faster visual recovery times.

In addition, any cut configuration and angulation can be chosen, the cut quality is excellent and the prepared donor transplant nestles perfectly in the recipient eye.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Abbott seeks to cash in on growing global vision-care market with AMO acquisition

By Howard Larkin

Looking to seize a leadership position in the €17bn global vision-care market, Abbott Laboratories is acquiring Advanced Medical Optics (AMO). Valued at nearly $2.8bn, or about €2.1bn, in cash and assumed debt, the deal was approved by the boards of both firms. Pending regulatory approvals, Abbott officials expect the sale to close in the first quarter of 2009.

Abbott’s move comes just 18 months after AMO attempted to acquire Bausch & Lomb, and six years after AMO was spun off from Allergan. The acquisition is the 120-year-old firm’s first venture in ophthalmology.

Abbott approached AMO with the deal because it offers an opportunity for Abbott to further diversify its growing medical device business, Abbott spokesman Scott Stoffel told EuroTimes. “Our global presence will help fuel growth opportunities internationally, particularly in emerging markets where there are favourable demographics and growing demand for advanced eye care products.”

With revenues of nearly $26bn in 2007, Abbott dwarfs AMO. Indeed, Abbott’s blockbuster immunotherapy biologic Humira alone generated $4.4bn. That’s roughly four times AMO’s total revenue for the year.

One might expect that AMO could easily disappear into such a dominant partner. But that is not Abbott’s plan, Mr Stoffel said. “Once the deal closes, the idea would be that [AMO] would continue to operate as a separate division of Abbott. I can’t speak directly on the idea that every process and procedure will remain the same, but the focus will be on serving the needs of patients and doctors in a way that is effective for them.”

Mr Stoffel confirmed that Abbott intends to retain the AMO management team and production facilities led by AMO Chairman and CEO Jim Mazzo. “Let me assure you that we remain fully committed to providing a full complement of superior refractive, cataract and corneal products and services. We intend to make this transaction as seamless as possible to you and, as always, the entire AMO organisation stands ready to deliver life-enhancing vision to eye care professionals and their patients,” Mr Mazzo said in a written statement to AMO customers.

Since Abbott Chairman and CEO Miles D White took over in 1999, Abbott has pursued a strategy of diversifying into new pharmaceutical and medical device markets through acquisitions, Mr Stoffel said. These include Knoll Pharmaceutical in 2001, which gave the firm Humira, and Guidant’s vascular business in 2006, which resulted in Abbott taking the leading position in the global market for vascular stents. Many of these acquisitions, including the Guidant operations and Nutrition International, continue to work as independent units within the company.

Abbott also has pursued an increasingly global strategy. In 2007, more than half the firm’s revenues came from outside the US for the first time, and that share continues to grow. Some of Abbott’s latest acquisitions, including Nutrition International and Guidant, are strongly focused on international growth.

The global recession and the resulting downturn in demand for laser vision correction created the conditions for the AMO buyout. With laser vision correction volume down 35 per cent in the third quarter, AMO’s stock briefly fell below $3 a share from a 2008 high of just over $24. After AMO announced a small profit for the third quarter due to rising cataract sales, the stock gradually climbed back to almost $9 in the session before Abbott announced the acquisition offer of $22 per share. While cataract surgery is AMO’s biggest market segment, the firm is much more highly exposed to the volatile laser refractive market than competitors such as Alcon and Bausch & Lomb.

Abbott sees the AMO acquisition as a long-term investment, Mr Stoffel said. Abbott projects that the acquisition will break even in 2009 and will begin generating a profit in 2010. The firm intends to continue supporting development of new vision technology, he added.

“One thing Abbott has been effective in as it manages through acquisitions is to take the best of the existing culture and maintain it, and use Abbott’s resources to enhance the business,” Mr Stoffel said. “Together with Abbott, AMO will be even stronger.”