Since its formation in 1998, EuroSpine, the Spine Society of Europe has become a reference point for European spine surgeons focused on educating surgeons and supporting their research. These efforts have stimulated the exchange of knowledge and ideas on managing spine disease, some of the organization’s officers, said.
Before EuroSpine, the Spine Society of Europe (SSE) was established, two major European spine groups — the European Spine Society and European Spinal Deformity Society — existed. Many European orthopaedists belonged to both groups, sources told Orthopaedics Today Europe. However, the scientific level of spine care varied due to the many countries and health care systems in Europe. To address these issues, the two groups merged in June 1998.
“The idea was to try to put all the spine surgeons in the same society to provide the same scientific level in all those countries,” Jean Charles Le Huec, MD, PhD, EuroSpine president, said.
SSE founder Robert Gunzburg, MD, PhD, shared this photo of him (middle) with Ferran Pelissé Uriquiza, MD, (left) and Jean Charles Le Huec, MD, PhD, who is currently the SSE president.
Image: Gunzburg R
The combined group was renamed the Spine Society of Europe and later renamed EuroSpine, the Spine Society of Europe. The publisher Springer publishes its European Spine Journal, now the second highest rated spine journal worldwide, SSE founder and past president Robert Gunzburg, MD, PhD, said.
It was also important at the outset to establish an annual meeting. Although initial EuroSpine meetings were small, they quickly grew in size and scope. The 2011 meeting in Milan attracted 2,700 attendees. EuroSpine is now considered “the most important spine meeting on our continent and one of the most important in the world,” Ferran Pellisè Urquiza, MD, president elect of the SSE, said.
Another sign of the SSE’s commitment to educating spine surgeons is the SpineWeek meeting. Gunzburg, of Antwerp, Belgium; Marek Szpalski, MD, of Brussels; and Dieter Grob, MD, and Jiri Dvorak, MD, both of Zurich, conceived an idea for a combined meeting of key scientific spine societies to be held every 4 years. The first SpineWeek was held in 2004 in Porto, Portugal. “That was an enormous challenge because nobody knew if it would be successful,” Gunzburg said. “We took a risk, the four of us. We took a financial risk, together with our congress organizer.”
Improving spine education by instituting standards across Europe was the SSE’s goal from the start. “[The SSE] is the organization that is now leading the most ambitious educational program in the spine disease field in Europe,” Pellisè, at Vall d’Hebron University Hospital in Barcelona, told Orthopaedics Today Europe.
Under the auspices of the European Educational Plan, new spine surgeons participate in five training modules and receive a diploma in spine surgery upon completing them. Established surgeons who desire continuing education can take master courses. The final part is the spine fellowship, Pellisè said.
The diploma, master courses and spine fellowships are expected to help the SSE achieve a bigger goal of creating a separate specialty for spine surgery.
Some members of the EuroSpine Executive Committee and others recently gathered at SpineWeek 2012 in Amsterdam. They are (left to right) Ciarán Bolger, MD, Anna Ganthaler, Judith Reichert, Marek Szpalski, MD, Haluk Berk, MD, Jean Charles Le Huec, MD, PhD, Phil Sell, MD, Marco Teli, MD, and Michael Ogon, MD.
A spine specialty in Europe
“In Europe, we do not have a specialization for spine specialists,” Pellisè said, noting the SSE initiated meetings with the European Union of Medical Specialists to establish a spine subspecialty. “If we obtain that, it will be one of the most important issues in the last 20 years or 50 years in Europe.”
Another important SSE project is the Spine Tango registry, which the SSE established in 2002 based on the success of the Swedish Hip Arthroplasty Register, but it is a work in progress. There are approximately 40,000 patients in the database; however, follow-up is only 10%, according to Le Huec, chairman of the spine unit and the orthopaedic department and surgical research lab at Bordeaux University in France.
“At 1 year, follow-up is even less,” Le Huec said. “It is not easy to introduce all patients into this database … You have to follow the patient to put in all your outcomes. So, at the moment, the Spine Tango is only a success for the epidemiology of spine disease, but we decided this year to help surgeons increase their contribution so that establishing a benchmark of the European spine market might be possible.”
In 2007, when the SSE recognized that to be more effective it needed to be more professional, it established the EuroSpine Foundation. Its CEO is Gerard Vanacker.
“We wanted to create the foundation for mainly two purposes: One is professionalize the society; that means the operational, managerial part of the society would be outsourced in a professional organization with a chief executive officer who does that full-time and knows how to run a business like that,” Max Aebi, MD, DHC, chair of the EuroSpine Foundation and past president of SSE, said.
As such, the foundation now has the resources, infrastructure and professional management necessary to help the society to achieve its goals, he noted.
The second purpose for the foundation was to establish a boundary between researchers and industry. “We thought it was time to create some kind of vessel where we can put the money [from companies], where the money will be neutralized,” Aebi, an Orthopaedics Today Europe Editorial Board member, said. “It will be Foundation money, [and] will be instituted for the purposes of the society, like mostly education, the registry, symposia and the patient line [section of our website],” he said.
Aebi told Orthopaedics Today Europe, “The foundation will become the organization for education in spine surgery and spine medicine in Europe.”
Furthermore, the Spine Tango registry should become increasingly important as more governments and health insurance groups will require proof of efficacy before paying for spine care. “We have to measure results and outcomes to justify spine surgery because it’s a costly surgery,” Aebi said. The foundation plans to staff Spine Tango with professionals to provide the structure to make it successful, he noted.
According to Aebi, “We are interested in satisfying the empowerment of the patient” and are creating a patient association to work closely with the foundation. – by Colleen Owens
For more information:
- Max Aebi, MD, DHC, can be reached at MEM Research Center, Stauffacherstrasse 78, CH-3014 Bern, Switzerland; email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Robert Gunzburg, MD, PhD, can be reached at Niellonstraat 14, 2600 Antwerpen-Berchem, Belgium; email: email@example.com.
- Jean Charles Le Huec, MD, PhD, can be reached at Pellegrin Hospital, 33076 Bordeaux, France; email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Ferran Pellisè Urquiza, MD, can be reached at Passeig Vall d’Hebron 119-129, 08035 Barcelona, Spain; email: email@example.com.
- Aebi, Gunzburg, Le Huec and Pellisè have no relevant financial disclosures.