Caroline Helwick

November 03, 2017

NEW ORLEANS —  A potential treatment for two eye conditions that currently have none — inherited retinal disease and dry age-related macular degeneration — will be among the most anticipated research presented at the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) 2017 Annual Meeting.

Investigators will report the latest findings on the use of human embryonic stem cell–derived retinal pigment epithelial cells, which could restore vision to persons with Stargardt's macular dystrophy and non-neovascular (dry) macular degeneration. The US Food and Drug Administration is expected to approve this treatment within the next 2 months, so these papers are very timely. 

What's "New" in New Orleans?

Eye care providers will come away with "New Solutions, New Inspirations," according to the meeting's theme, said Maria M. Aaron, MD, secretary for AAO 2017 and professor of ophthalmology at Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, Georgia.

"'New' emphasizes the novel, late-breaking, cutting-edge courses, events and ideas that are presented at this year's meeting," Dr Aaron said. "There's something new for everyone — new techniques, research, technologies, strategies, therapies, and even new friends and connections."

"'New' also ties into the city that has experienced a renaissance over the past few years. New Orleans is one of America's most exciting cities," she added.

Attendees will, indeed, find a veritable gumbo of game-changing information in the form of more than 2000 presentations, including 450 instruction courses, 100 original research papers, dozens of spotlight sessions, and seven Subspecialty Day meetings. Some 25,000 eye care professionals are expected to attend. Registrants can also "let the good times roll" by participating in many unique-to-New Orleans activities. This year's Orbital Gala celebrates Mardi Gras, she said.

Among the new additions to this year's meeting is more Saturday programming and 111 new sessions. Dr Aaron predicted the most popular among clinical topics to include:

  • Sutureless scleral buckling, with Christina Y. Weng, MD

  • A typical day in the operating room of a pediatric ophthalmologist, with Jasleen K. Singh, MD

  • Small-incision lenticule extraction, with Arturo Ramirez-Miranda, MD

  • Optical coherence tomography (OCT) and OCT angiography in glaucoma: pearls and pitfalls, with Ahmet Akman, MD

  • Echographic interpretation of vitreoretinal disorders, with Cagri G. Besirli, MD

  • Ophthalmic viscosurgical devices in cataract surgery, with Steve Arshinoff, MD

Also new in 2017 is a moderated "poster theater," in which selected scientific posters and their authors can be viewed on a large monitor.

The EyePlay Experience will also be "an exciting addition to the exhibit hall that attendees should not miss," she said. "We'll have immersive virtual and augmented reality experiences, cooking demonstrations, and a beer garden. You can assemble hygiene bags for those in need, challenge a friend to a game of chess, and take a giant selfie."

Of Special Note

Seema Verma, MPH, new administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, will give the keynote address on Sunday, November 12. In one of her first major speeches, Verma will give attendees a frontline account of federal efforts to improve the US healthcare system and will share insights on navigating Medicare's complexities.

And legendary New Orleans musician Henry Butler will deliver the Michael F. Marmor Lecture in Ophthalmology and the Arts, "One Man's Vision," also on Sunday. Butler, blinded by congenital glaucoma since birth and composing and performing since age 12, is an eight-time W.C. Handy "Best Blues Instrumentalist - Piano" award nominee.    

A special session will feature ophthalmologists discussing what they learned from the recent hurricanes, as well as Hurricane Katrina. These physicians were on the front lines, mobilizing vital eye care services at temporary shelters. Amy Coburn, MD, from Houston Methodist Hospital in Texas, will share an ophthalmic disaster response action plan that can be customized for cities across the nation.

Harnessing the Power of Big Data to Improve Patient Care

What happens when big data meets ophthalmology's innovators? Attendees will find out at the symposium "The Value of the IRIS Registry: What We Can Learn From 100 Million Patient Records" on Saturday, November 11. The Academy launched the IRIS Registry (Intelligent Research in Sight) in New Orleans in 2014. It's now the largest specialty-based clinical data registry in all of medicine, with more than 41.2 million unique patients in its database.

"The annual meeting of the American Academy of Ophthalmology continues to evolve to meet the needs of our global community of eye physicians and surgeons," Dr Aaron said. "There is no other conference in the world that provides the breadth and depth of clinical education, research, and practice management advancements that continue to advance our specialty and help physicians navigate their practice and improve the quality of care they provide to patients each day. The Academy is focused on continuing to innovate."

Dr Aaron has disclosed no relevant financial relationships.

American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) 2017 Annual Meeting. November 10-14, 2017.

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