The Minimally Invasive Surgery Congress is a unique conference gathering experts from orthopedic, colorectal, and urological specialties from across the UK and from further afield in Europe.
Attendees of the two-day event (March 7th and 8th) in London included students, academics, clinicians, and representatives of medical device companies. The packed program featured keynote addresses from nationally and internationally recognized experts in their fields, alongside an array of over 50 other speakers addressing a diverse range of topics including laparoscopic and robotic procedures, imaging, virtual and assisted reality, 3D printing, stem cell therapy, arthroplasty, stenting, haptics, and medical education.
Major players from the minimally invasive surgical industry were on hand to demonstrate cutting-edge technology and new refinements of more familiar surgical tools. One particularly innovative product on display was the expanded range of ConforMIS patient-specific knee replacements—unique prostheses manufactured with measurements from patient imaging and designed to perfectly locate onto the anatomy, reconstructing the joint with minimal bone loss and resulting in a8 more natural load distribution.
Addressing the challenges of the minimally invasive environment, a number of presentations emphasized emerging techniques utilizing multiple imaging modalities, which may be used to accurately distinguish between soft-tissue and tumor during resections. The clinical results of these composite-imaging interventions were precise and elegant, allowing the surgeon to remove an entire lesion while safely preserving nearby vasculature and other important structures.
Other speakers discussed the huge benefit in orthopedics of computer-aided limb alignment assessments, which can be used to accurately measure and refine placement during surgery. The technology delivers on an aim repeated many times over the two-day meeting: reducing intervention time and improving the long-term performance of implants—leading to happier patients, surgeons, and hospital managers.
The realm of training the next generation of minimally invasive surgeons was also explored with impressive details of robotic assistance helping to dramatically flatten the trainee learning curve across a number of surgical disciplines. Discussion also focused on using virtual reality and simulators to train increasing numbers of surgical trainees faster, better, and cheaper—with the issue brought sharply into focus in the context of the growing global shortage in the number of surgeons needed to perform even basic procedures.
Both cautious and enthusiastic outlooks of increased technology use in surgery were debated by participants—some advocated for a conservative balancing of costs to benefits in the short-term, others for embracing the digital revolution enthusiastically.
“Virtual surgeon” and popular futurist Shafi Ahmed perhaps put it best: “This is the very best time to be practicing medicine—yes, the fusion of technology with traditional techniques in the OR will change our clinical practice dramatically, but it will also dramatically improve the lives of our patients.”