By: 3 March 2015
EUROSPINE: A pan-European success story

A review of the EUROSPINE annual general meeting, which took place in Lyon in October

The flagship event in the EUROSPINE calendar took place in Lyon at the beginning of October. The annual general meeting brought together professionals from across Europe and from further afield – South America, China, Japan, India and the Middle East – all with the aim of sharing the professional challenges of providing quality health care in diverse economic climates.

The programme committee put together a meeting programme of extraordinary scientific strength. Over three-days, we saw a total of seven non-parallel scientific sessions, six scientific lunch symposia, two debates on current controversial topics, as well as five concurrent quick-fire sessions. Particular highlights included the ‘best of show’ session, featuring the eight highest-scoring abstract submissions; the Medal and Awards lectures; as well as a Keynote presentation from the local host of our annual meeting.

Out of 606 validly submitted abstracts, 70 were chosen for oral presentations after undergoing a rigorous review process. Another 75 papers were selected for short communication/quick-fire presentation. The authors of a further 94 abstracts were given the chance to present their work as scientific posters throughout the meeting.

The award for Best Full Paper was given to Ferran Pellisé (Barcelona) and his team for their paper which compared the impact on health-related quality of life of adult spinal deformity with other chronic conditions. Meanwhile, Wouter Moojen, and colleagues from Leiden in the Netherlands, took the Best Podium Award for 2014 for their presentation of the long-term results of a randomised controlled trial comparing treatment with surgical interspinous implants against conventional decompression for lumbar spinal stenosis.

Delegates at the meeting benefited from additional features such as the EUROSPINE App, which offered easy access to scientific and logistic congress information, including details of the programme, speakers, sessions, posters and congress venue. The App also enabled delegates to capture the full experience of the meeting by participating in interactive voting, as well as being able to bookmark favourite sessions and read the exclusive e-version of the congress newspaper The Spine Times.

There were plenty of social networking opportunities during both the welcome reception, and the official congress evening, all of which were ‘green’ and fully compliant. Finally, the cloakroom and left-luggage facility raised much-needed funds for Unicef; as organisers, we would like to offer our thanks to the charming volunteers who helped to make that happen.



President’s Prize
The activities of EUROSPINE support the next generation of healthcare professionals and, as a special challenge for this group, President Philip Sell, introduced the EUROSPINE 2014 President’s Prize. Young professionals were asked to submit an abstract entitled ‘How can the spinal trainees of today become the best spine specialists of tomorrow?’. First prize was awarded to Maryem-Fama Ismael Aguirre from Milan, Italy, who wrote that spinal trainees need to focus on personal training while advancing their specialty, and that the three pillars of personal motivation, a qualified mentor and a common training platform are necessary to achieve these goals. Second prize went to Tim Heiland of Ulm in Germany who believes that young trainees need to break boundaries and look to the treatment of spinal disorders as a multidisciplinary task, as well as embracing ‘soft skills’to enable better communication with patients and their families.

The winning abstracts were published in the congress newspaper The Spine Times.

The way forward
EUROSPINE has developed a ‘Way Forward’ strategy to promote and advance developments within the society. As part of this strategy, a new Institutional Membership category was created to bring together all European spine societies under one umbrella, with EUROSPINE as a common communications platform. The goals of the Institutional Membership programme focus upon the representation and implementation of common interests in Europe, increasing political importance, and the standardisation of processes, e.g. the development of a common, spine-specific educational concept (European Spine Certificate).

Eurospine_tie & pin-portrait

Eurospine_tie & pin-portrait

The presidents of all European spine societies were invited to attend the Lyon congress and participate in the first European Spine Societies Advisory Board (EuSSAB) meeting. The first pan-European meeting of spine societies within the scope of EuSSAB brought together 27 societies from 21 countries and received broad and convincing support. At this meeting, first goals and ambitions were defined, which will be implemented during the years to come as part of a ‘united effort of all European spine societies’.

Another of EUROSPINE’s long-term goals is to promote the society to young and active members and to provide support for bright minds in spinal care from an early stage in their careers. With this in mind, a new Young Members membership category has been set up for those under 40 years of age and offers a discount of 50% on the regular annual membership fee.

Future meetings

Building on the success of our meetings we have introduced a Spring meeting for specific spine specialists. These short, two-day events offer a mixture of focused abstracts, informed debate and an emphasis on evidence-based medicine to provide good quality, high-value professional development. The Spring 2015 meeting will take place in Barcelona and will centre around the topic of scoliosis. A Spring 2016 event will focus on tumour, infection and trauma.


EUROSPINE is a not-for-profit organisation whose funds are returned to society in visible projects. Task Force Research has reviewed many grant applications and awarded over €450,000 to fund research over the last years. Patient line receives 40,000 hits a month, is now available in Greek, and is in the process of modernisation.

For further details about EUROSPINE visit

Philip J. Sell, FRCS, UK
Past President
Thomas R. Blattert, MD, PhD, Germany
Programme Chair
Christoph Siepe, MD, PhD, Germany
Chair of Membership Committee
Haluk Berk, MD, Turkey
Best Full Paper
Impact on health-related quality of life of adult spinal deformity (ASD) compared with other chronic conditions
by Ferran Pellisé, Alba Vila-Casademunt, Montse Ferrer, Montse Domingo-Sàbat, Juan Bago, Francisco J. Sanchez Perez-Grueso, Ahmet Alanay, Anne F. Mannion and Emre Acaroglu


Best Podium Presentation
Surgical interspinous implant versus conventional decompression for lumbar spinal stenosis – a randomised controlled trial, long‐term results
by Wouter Moojen, Mark Arts, Wilco Jacobs, Carmen Vleggeert‐Lankamp and Wilco Peul

President’s Prize
How can the spinal trainees of today become the best spine specialists of tomorrow?

First prize:
Maryem-Fama Ismael Aguirre

Second prize:
Tim Heiland

President’s Prize abstract – first prize

How can the spinal trainees of today become the best spine specialists of tomorrow?

By Maryem-Fama Ismael Aguirre

Spinal trainees face a significant challenge: focusing on our personal training while promoting and advancing our specialty. Three pillars are necessary to achieve these goals: personal motivation, a qualified mentor, and a common training platform.

Anyone who has managed to surpass the difficulties of medical school and residency has displayed traits of perseverance.

The continual search for excellence beyond the required minimum, the humility to say “I do not know” in order to learn, and the constant questioning of established knowledge are the basis for personal growth. In striving to be the very best, however, one’s inner drive to keep learning must be encouraged and supervised in order for personal abilities to thrive. A qualified mentor will recognise, help maintain and develop this motivation by setting a human and professional example, promoting personal initiative, and sharing both positive and negative experiences. The mentor needs to create a synergistic learning atmosphere in which honest mistakes are considered learning opportunities. More specifically, instruction should cover patient–doctor communication, clinical judgement, surgical skills, educational project development, and supervised original research.

In order to optimise the mentor–trainee relationship and provide uniform criteria amongst trainees, there is the need for a common, internationally acknowledged platform that derives prestige by setting evidence-based high standards in care, education and research. It should include formal training for the mentor and an up-to-date syllabus for the trainee, with meaningful motivational milestones. Affordable theoretical and practical resources should be equally accessible, using technology as well as direct exchange to share the positive particularities and overcome the local limitations of each training centre.

Ultimately, this platform should provide the network to promote cooperation beyond any interpersonal competitive attitude. The nature of our profession is that we demand the highest standards of care and attention for our patients. To keep improving outcomes, it is essential that we devote the same level of attention and care to training the spine specialists of tomorrow.

President’s Prize abstract – second prize

How can the spinal trainees of today become the best spine specialists of tomorrow?

By Tim Heiland
Every generation has to write its own story. Looking at the history of spinal surgery, young trainees are standing on the shoulders of true giants. In many countries over all continents excellent specialist have developed and shaped the treatment of spinal disorders. Many of them through great individual experience.
To connect their teacher’s experience with their daily work through understanding and modern learning techniques will enable young trainees to open new horizons.
Young trainees have to break boundaries. There are substantial differences in the process of treating patients with spinal disorders in distinct parts of the world. The common goal to help our patients is equal. That is why trainees have to connect various countries to learn from the differences.
The treatment of spinal disorders is an interdisciplinary task. Only if a trainee can connect the different approaches to the matter can they develop as a specialist. Leading examples are the synthesis of biomechanics and surgery or the intersection of neurosurgery and orthopaedic surgery.
To connect basic research to the daily treatment of our patients holds great achievements. Through study, exchange and individual research trainees will develop to become specialists in state-of-the-art treatment and research.
The amount of scientific and clinical knowledge is steadily increasing to an overwhelming volume. To liberate the true information and transform it to enable the best treatment concepts for our patients is the challenging work of many. Connecting with each other through collective platforms empowers young trainees to be part of and succeed in this ongoing challenge.
Eventually, the strongest connection has to be with our patients and their families. That is why young trainees have to become communication specialists. The development of so-called ‘soft skills’ will enable every young trainee to actually apply the best treatment possible in a patient-centred setting.
Every generation has to write its own story. Dedicated young trainees of today will make theirs a success story as truly connected spine specialists.