Battle Of The Professors

The journalist inside me is always thinking in terms of news stories, interesting angles and headlines. Almost all situations and events can be written up in a newsworthy way and even highly specialised topics – like those covered in the ESCRS in Barcelona –can be reported in a manner that should enjoy a wider appeal.

Looking back on the congress I find myself wondering what would be its lasting memory for all the participants. What would make the front page? What should the headline be?

The ESCRS is considered to be the largest and most advanced general conference in the field of cataract and Laser Refractive Surgery – ahead of its American counterpart (the ASCRS) held six months later in San Francisco. Contrary to what one might expect, the technology and techniques presented at the ESCRS are sometimes years ahead of the American meeting, because American technology lags behind the rest of the world due to their much slower medical device approval process.

If I were a tabloid journalist sent to find a bit of controversy, I would undoubtedly have focused on what I like to call: “The Battle of the Professors”.  This talk was actually billed as Controversies in Cataract and Refractive Surgery 2009. The sub text of the first section was: “Excimer laser for hyperopia: What are the age and degree limits?”

Mr. Julian D. Stevens, a consultant specialising in Laser Refractive Surgery at Moorfields Eye Hospital, was arguing the cautious viewpoint “modest limits” while, unsurprisingly, the London Vision Clinic’s Professor Dan Reinstein argued in favour of safely going for “wider limits”.

There were two chair people and after each speaker was given a modest ten minutes to make their case a discussion was expected to follow.

Even with the extra chairs placed in the 500-seat conference room, there was standing room only. Dr Dan was in the happy position of speaking second. Backed up by a baffling array (well mine is an untrained eye) of  graphics and statistics he clearly showed that it was possible to safely improve the eyesight of older patients and those whose prescriptions don’t fit into the “normally acceptable” category for surgery.  He explained that throughout history the role of “trail blazer” and inventor has not been an easy one.

As long as safety was in no way compromised; the skill, ability, knowledge and equipment are all available, then there is, argues Dr Dan convincingly, no reason why previously normal limits cannot be widened.

I am certain that many happy and satisfied London Vision Clinic patients who have been turned away by other surgeons, would agree with him.

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