by Panagiotis Zis, Assistant Professor of Neurology and Clinical Neurophysiology, University of Cyprus
A regional teaching course (RTC) organised by the European Academy of Neurology (EAN) and the Medical School of the University of Cyprus took place in Nicosia, Cyprus on 11-13 March, 2022. This was the first ever RTC to be held on the beautiful island of Cyprus. Despite the uncertainty caused by COVID-19 the RTC was held as an entirely in-person meeting, which in fact was the first in-person RTC since the beginning of the pandemic. Unfortunately, because of the unjustified invasion in Ukraine, many Russian scientists who had registered to participate could not travel to Cyprus. Still, our RTC had almost 100 participants from 12 different countries.
The course focused on peripheral neuropathies, clinical neurophysiology and pain. These topics were chosen based on the expertise of the local organisers and because these were topics that have not been dealt with in previous RTCs.
The first day was dedicated to peripheral neuropathies. Dr. Panagiotis Zis, Assistant Professor of Neurology and Clinical Neurophysiology at the University of Cyprus, talked about the classification of peripheral neuropathies; Prof. Mary Reilly, Professor of Neurology at the UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology, London, UK, gave a lecture on the diagnostic approach of hereditary peripheral neuropathies; Dr. Rob Hadden, Consultant Neurologist at King’s College Hospital, London, UK, addressed inflammatory neuropathies (GBS/CIDP); and Prof. Marios Hadjivassiliou, Consultant Neurologist and Academic Director of Neurosciences at Sheffield Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and Honorary Professor of Neurology at the University of Sheffield, UK, talked about other immune-mediated neuropathies. Three interactive workshops on the differential diagnosis of patients with neuropathy were held in the afternoon:
- Differential diagnosis of hereditary peripheral neuropathy – by Prof. Mary Reilly (London, UK).
- Differential diagnosis of patients with neuropathic symptoms – by Dr. Rob Hadden (London, UK).
- Differential diagnosis of sensory ataxia – by Prof. Marios Hadjivassiliou (Sheffield, UK).
The second day was dedicated to the neurophysiology of the peripheral nervous system. Dr Eleftherios Papathanasiou, Clinical Neurophysiologist at the Cyprus Institute of Neurology and Genetics and Assistant Professor at the Cyprus School of Molecular Medicine, presented the basic principles of nerve conduction studies. The second speaker was connected remotely from Sweden; it was an honour to host virtually Professor Eric Stalberg, emeritus Professor of Clinical Neurophysiology at the Uppsala University, a legend of modern electrophysiology, who gave a talk on single fibre EMG. Dr Walter Struhal, Associate Professor of Neurology at the University Hospital of Tulln, Austria, then spoke about the neurophysiology of the autonomic nervous system, and Dr Eleni Bakola, Consultant Neurologist at the Attikon University Hospital, Athens, Greece gave insights into nerve ultrasound. The morning session ended with the Resident and Research Fellow Section representative, Dr Francesco Di Lorenzo (Italy) who gave an overview of EAN research and training opportunities for medical students and young neurologists.
Three workshops were held in the afternoon:
- Autonomic Nervous System evaluation – Dr. Walter Struhal (Tulln, Austria)
- Sensory nerve conduction studies – Dr. Ptolemaios Sarrigiannis (Exeter, UK)
- Motor conduction studies – Dr. Eleftherios Papathanasiou (Nicosia, Cyprus)
At the end of the second day, a guided walking tour was offered to all participants through the heart of Nicosia, sponsored by the Deputy Ministry of Tourism of the Republic of Cyprus. During this tour the participants had the opportunity to visit one of Europe’s most intriguing capitals, being the last divided city in the world that dates back to the Bronze Age. The old city centre, surrounded by Venetian walls dating from 1567, is full of art, culture, and architecture, with museums, galleries, old churches, and medieval buildings. The tour ended at a local restaurant, for a relaxing evening during which the delegates had the opportunity to talk to colleagues while enjoying local drinks and food.
The last day was dedicated to pain. The first lecturer was Prof. Claudia Sommer, Professor of Neurology at the University of Würzburg, Germany and President of the International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP) who gave a talk on the differential diagnosis of neuropathic pain. Dr. Jordi Serra, Consultant Neurologist and Clinical Neurophysiologist at King’s College Hospital, London, UK then talked about the diagnostic approach of small fibre neuropathy and described in depth the technique of microneurography. The third speaker was Dr. Athina Vadalouka, Associate Professor at the National Kapodistrian University of Athens, Greece who gave a lecture on the treatment of neuropathic pain. Finally, Dr. Panagiotis Bargiotas, Assistant Professor of Neurology at the University of Cyprus gave a talk on sleep and pain interactions.
Moving towards the end of the RTC, a Quiz with 40 multiple choice questions based on all RTC lectures took place. Kyriakos Birmpas, a 6th year medical student at the University of Patras, Greece achieved the highest score and received a prize from Prof. Georgios Hadjigeorgiou, Head of the Department of Neurology and Associate Dean of the Medical School, University of Cyprus.
The overall feedback from the participants and the speakers was very positive. In particular, the participants welcomed the fact that this RTC included topics that have not been selected in previous courses. Many participants suggested to the EAN to organise more hands-on courses in nerve conduction studies and electromyography (standard EMG and single-fibre EMG) in small groups in order to gain further experience in these techniques.
We are sincerely thankful to the European Academy of Neurology for their support in organising the RTC for the first time in Cyprus. We are looking forward to more EAN events taking place in this beautiful country!