The changing face of surgery at ICOMS 2015

December 2015

The 22nd International Conference on Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery was held earlier this year at MCEC and featured a new approach using robots.

Around 1700 delegates from over 60 countries gathered at Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre (MCEC) during the 27-30 October to attend ICOMS 2015. Not only were attendees exposed to leading speakers and the presentation of over 700 free papers, but they were also invited to activities and tours that highlighted the natural beauty of the state of Victoria.

Club Melbourne Ambassador David Wiesenfeld, who was the conference chair, said the educational highlight was demonstrating the use of robots for excision of cancer at the back of the mouth.

“Performing surgery to the back of the mouth is difficult and hard to reach. The robots having little arms are able to access this area more easily and with improved accuracy.”

Transoral robotic surgery is a relatively new approach, but it promises to be quite an effective alternative to chemotherapy and radiation. The reason why surgery to remove cancers in this area has not been more widely used in the past is that it can be quite invasive, requiring such things as the splitting of the mandible (jawbone) to expose specific areas.

Other standouts included demonstrations on intra-operative facial bone scanning and computer modelling for jaws and 3D printing for prosthesis and fixation devices for the jaws.

The conference showed that the surgical space is rapidly transforming largely due to the development of imaging technology. Being able to map the face, jaw and mouth before an operation allows for the creation of customised prosthetics, improved accuracy and shorter operating times, making surgery easier, and translating to better outcomes from patients.

The benefit to the Victorian and Australian industry
Having the conference in our own backyard has been a huge boost as it has placed us into the centre of international trends and ideas. It has permitted Victorians to network with international colleagues and to engage in a dialogue about professional interests, research and strategies regarding patient care.

Many of the scientific papers were presented by Australians, which highlighted the strength of Australian participation on the world stage. It also demonstrated the value of international training exchange, with 24 former fellows who had trained in Melbourne returning to share their experience at the fellows’ dinner. It was a wonderful opportunity for young Australian surgeons who wish to undertake overseas fellowship positions to meet with world leaders and make arrangements for the future.

ICOMS 2015 was a scientific and economic success.  Apart from the proliferation of attendees and papers presented, it provided significant income to the organising bodies, further establishing Melbourne as a global leader in hosting international conferences.