4th international EA conference in Sydney

1 January 2017

Steering Board form the majority of the EAT Medical Advisory Committee. There have previously been EA conferences in this series in Lille (2010), Montreal (2012) and Rotterdam (2014). The next one will be in 2019 in Rome, and our colleagues in the Italian support group FATE will be involved in organising it.
At this conference, some 55 papers were presented in detail, with a further 80 posters available to the delegates. That’s a lot of work being done and published by the World’s doctors, about various aspects of EA. Just over 200 healthcare professionals attended the conference, many of which were from Australia. We received the impression that the organisers had hoped to see more representation from other countries in Asia (China; Japan; India, and so on); nonetheless a lot of the senior doctors from the US and Europe also attended.

The conference’s sessions covered a wide range of topics.

Their titles were:
• Gastrointestinal morbidity in the EA patient
• Difficult surgical decisions in EA
• The OA experience in the Asia Pacific
• How to optimise respiratory function in EA
• Importance of nutrition in EA
• Quality of life in EA
• Pharyngoesophageal function testing in EA
• Otolarygological and airway issues in EA
• Young investigator session
• Controversies and future directions for EA
• What’s in store for the adult EA patient
• Registry and research collaboration in EA

It’s immediately obvious from this list that surgical techniques don’t feature much as a discussion topic! This may seem a little surprising given that many of the world’s specialists on EA are surgeons. But the multi-disciplinary nature of this event is much appreciated by the medical professionals who attend and we welcome the interest in the patient’s wider health needs and outcomes which these presentations represent.

Professor Gottrand (Chairman of INoEA) announced the publication of the long-awaited internationally-agreed ESPGHAN guidelines for the management of gastro-intestinal complications of oesophageal atresia. EAT had – prior to publication – been asked to comment on the draft proposals so it’s great that these new international guidelines now exist.

There were a number of presentations on motility of the oesophagus, on the stomach and also on tracheo-malacia,. One thing which emerged is that as medical understanding of EA becomes moredetailed, so it becomes obvious just how much is still not understood! Some papers were presented about the most difficult “long gap” cases. The conference also heard from experts on genetics, tissueengineering, quality of life, and on the design of patient questionnaires.

Three of the presentations and one of the posters at the conference were from the support groups.

Graham Slater, (Chair of EAT) made a well-received presentation, reminding the doctors that support groups have a great role to play in furthering research into TOF/OA. Graham presented jointly with Olivia Guidice, who is President of the Australian support group OARA (and who had been an invited member of the conference organizing committee).

Two Australian EA patients also presented their experiences.

We had a stand in the small exhibition area next to the conference. We had many leaflets to give out and our exhibition area was much visited and we were successful in conveying the message that EAT and its member associations are well organised and that we can help doctors to help their EA patients.
Perhaps our most successful contribution to the conference was the launch of the new 250-page ‘TOFS Book’ published by EAT’s UK member association TOFS. It attracted huge interest and 40 copies were distributed to a selection of the leading EA doctors at the conference. Professor Rene Wijnen (a member of EAT’s Medical Advisory Committee) said that he thinks the book is “superb”.
Overall this was a successful conference which re-affirmed the importance and relevance of its multidisciplinary approach and the growing partnership which we, as a federation of support groups, enjoy with leading medical professionals across the world.

Written in conjunction with John Pearce (TOFS Board Member)

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