The 67th American Association of Neuromuscular and Electrodiagnostic Medicine (AANEM) Annual Meeting took place from October 7–10, 2020. This year was the first time this meeting was virtual instead of in-person due the COVID-19 pandemic. The online virtual format was easy to navigate and the platform was user friendly. As an attendee, I received an email to help me log in to the meeting. The home page was set up to represent the registration area with arrows pointing toward the exhibit hall, poster hall, sessions, and networking directory, making it feel like you were at the live meeting picking up your registration material. The attendance was the highest ever for AANEM, with 1,664 attendees. There were attendees from 58 countries, extending the reach of the meeting all over the world.
This meeting covered the most up-to-date neuromuscular (NM) and electrodiagnostic (EDX) topics. The first plenary session by AANEM President Dr. Yuen So started the meeting off by discussing the latest developments in NM medicine in the form of new therapeutics for NM diseases. This visual is a perfect summary of how the advancements in therapeutics have led to new options in disease management, which is very exciting for physicians, patients, and caregivers. As physicians specializing in NM diseases, it is great to bring hope to our patients and their families that was not available to them in the past.
The virtual poster hall allowed attendees to not only talk live to the authors during designated poster hours, but to also send questions to the presenters after hours using the meeting software to communicate with the authors. The networking experience was different, but still certainly high yield. The virtual directory included speakers and poster presenters, along with other attendees with easy-to-use private chat rooms for personal or group conversations.
The four-day conference offered great sessions and expert speakers who focused on the diagnostic and therapeutic aspects of NM diseases. Some of the sessions that I found particularly valuable include an interesting talk on the advanced intraoperative monitoring (IOM) aspect of neural reconstruction surgeries. The speakers discussed how IOM can provide information on axonal disruption, localization of lesion, assessment of dorsal nerve root continuity, and fascicular selection, which can lead to critical decisions during peripheral nerve surgery.
“Pregnancy and NM Diseases” was another great session. The speakers discussed the presentation and management of multiple NM disorders during pregnancy, labor/delivery, and postpartum. They described important treatment considerations for women with NM disorders who are planning a future pregnancy. The speakers highlighted the advantages of working with interdisciplinary teams in the management of care for these patients.
Along the same theme of multidisciplinary approach was a session called “The Bermuda Triangle of NM Disease.” The speakers highlighted the need for us to evaluate patients for sleep, pulmonary, and cardiac abnormalities, since these conditions often impact our patients with NM diseases. The speakers agreed that collaboration between different specialists is the key to providing optimal care for NM patients.
Another session called “Assistive Technology for Gait” had a futuristic angle. The speakers talked about ways to assess innovative technologies that are now available and in development, such as robotics and exoskeletons. They shared the future direction of growth and talked about novel control of rehabilitation robotics using EMG and EEG.
Social events included AANEM Executive Director Shirlyn Adkins and Project Specialist Zoe Cantu’s live demonstration of mixology with three cocktails that provided the attendees a chance to bring the Floridian resort experience home. Another unique networking experience was “Fireside Chat with Spike and Wave,” hosted by William J. Litchy, MD and Lawrence R. Robinson, MD. They invited multiple experts in the field of EDX where the ultrasound and EMG/NCS patterns were the basis of amusing dialogue, which was unexpected. The experts in the fields as guests were participating in a banter that was out of character for them, given the intentional emphasis on levity.
Overall, the AANEM annual meeting met the expectation of allowing the attendees to learn and spend time socializing in a virtual format from the comfort and safety of their homes. The recordings of educational sessions through the on-demand function will also allow the attendees the flexibility to access the sessions at their convenience for 30 days after the meeting ended as part of the registration fee.
Dr. Ahmed has no conflicts of interest to report.