Going troppo at the ANZAN 2018 ASM

By Mardi Chapman

24 May 2018

Top End residents will be hoping that a couple of delegates to the ANZAN 2018 ASM in Darwin will be tempted to stay on and fill a clinical need for neurologists in the community.

And while the scientific program committee can’t deliver on that wish list, they have put together an educational program which opens with an intriguing session on tropical neurology – featuring a speaker with a jellyfish named after him – and a panel session on regional neurology.

Committee chair Professor Alan Barber told the limbic that they’ve worked hard to embrace the local, cover off neurology’s ‘big five’ and throw in some need-to-knows.

“Apart from stroke, epilepsy, MS, headache and movement disorders, a lot of neurology is rare and challenging diagnostically like cerebral malaria, so we’ve tried to get a balance between what we see all the time and what’s new and the sort of things you may not see very often, but when you do you need to be able to recognise them.”

He also welcomed the opportunity to help raise the profile of neurology in the Northern Territory.

“Darwin is a great place to go to but it’s also great to have a big conference like this in a regional centre particularly since they are about to lose their neurologist.”

“The opening session is on tropical neurology which Jim Burrow has put together for us to give a local flavour to the meeting – with snakes, jellyfish, malaria and melioidosis. I think it’s a great way to start the meeting.”

Public health physician Professor Bart Currie, from the Menzies School of Health Research, will present on the neurotoxicity of snakes and jellyfish such as the box jellyfish species Chiropsella bart named in his honour. (Wed, 8.30am)

Controversial topics aren’t being sidelined either with a symposium on cannabis recognising the increasing numbers of enquires from patients about its medicinal use. (Wed, 1.30pm)

“We are looking at how cannabinoids work, how to use them for pain, how we can use them in childhood epilepsy and in adult epilepsy.”

Professor Barber said the debate has overtaken the evidence to date but neurologists need to know more about it and can expect there will be new indications beyond epilepsy and MS.

“There is evidence for it but for specific indications. It’s not a wonder drug. It’s got lots of side effects and its horrendously expensive.”

International expertise

International speakers on the program include Professor Gavin Giovannoni (UK) who will present the annual W Ian McDonald Lecture (Thurs, 1.30pm), on the MS prodrome (Wed, 3.30pm) and on lobbying for Brain Health in MS (Thurs, 4pm).

A movement disorders symposium will feature Associate Professor Susan Fox (Canada) on evidence-based device assisted therapies in advanced Parkinson’s disease; Tim Anderson (NZ) on non-motor manifestations in Parkinson’s disease and Glenda Halliday (Aust) on prion like neurodegeneration in Parkinson’s disease. (Fri, 9.30am)

Other international guests include:

  • Professor Brad Worrall (US) on the genetics of stroke (Wed, 11.20am)
  • Professor Mark Richardson (UK) on advances in epilepsy (Wed, 1pm)
  • Professor Michael Hill (Canada) in a number of sessions on Stroke Update Day (Tues 9.30am, 11.30am, & 1.30pm)

Time is brain

Professor Barber, a stroke expert from the University of Auckland,  said clot retrieval was transforming the management of stroke and clinicians in Australia and New Zealand were ‘ahead of the pack’.

“We know that it works because of the EXTEND-IA study and all of our stroke neurologists in the region took part in that trial and contributed patients. Before it became an approved treatment, we were putting patients into the study, we are experienced at doing it and doing it well.”

However stroke management was also about getting people to hospital in time and systems of care.

“Time is brain – so if you lose any time, you’ve lost brain cells. You lose about two million brain cells per minute during a stroke. So Steve Davis and the team at Royal Melbourne Hospital have got a mobile stroke unit – an ambulance with a CT scanner in it and a member of the team who will go out, assess the patient and do the CT scan so you can treat the patient in the ambulance.”

“And that is going to be a great talk; one of the highlights of the first day. You need a really quick and slick stroke team and it’s changing the way we look after patients.”

The program also includes Young Investigator Award presentations (Thurs, 11am) ahead of the Leonard Cox Lecture on ALS pathogenesis (Thurs, midday).

The AGM will be held Thursday morning (8am) and the ASM dinner on Thursday night on the waterfront at Pee Wee’s at the Point.

The ANZAN 2018 ASM runs from 29 May to 1 June at the Darwin Convention Centre.

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