With New Orleans as the site of the 2007 American Academy of Ophthalmology annual meeting, doctors and industry professionals are no doubt wondering: "Is the city ready?" The experience of recent convention-goers suggests that it is.

"Our attendees had a blast," says Kathryn Goldstein, director of communications for Meeting Professionals International. "Everyone bent over backwards to give us a great conference." Though not an exceptionally large meeting—Goldstein estimates 2,600 attendees—the MPI conference, held in January, is notable for its impact on future professional meetings held in New Orleans. MPI has a significant influence in the global meeting industry, and their reception could well have factored into the decision of other organizations to uphold their commitment to the city.

"It's the same New Orleans experience as you've had in the past," says Deidre Ross, director of conference services for the American Library Association. Ms. Ross affirms that all the city's amenities and services were in full swing. The city provided health reports and general information that eased the anxiety for many attendees. She rated room service to restaurants to rates as superb. "It's not a new city, so when you're here you're getting professional hospitality people." The only complaint ALA members had was with airlines. Higher airfares and fewer flights kept some from attending, though Ms. Ross is quick to point out that finances are more of a sticking point for librarians with modest salaries.

The ALA isn't the only organization to cite airline trouble. Susan Sears Hamilton, senior director of the annual seminar and i2 Summit for the American College of Cardiology, reports similar problems. Though the ACC worked extensively with New Orleans' visitors bureau to get more flights available, the airlines still weren't at full operation. Regardless, ACC attendees came out, exceeding projections.

Lucien Salvant, managing director of public affairs for the National Association of Realtors, says his organization had been observing New Orleans' progress since December 2005, before the November 2006 meeting. The NAR had planned for 25,000 to 30,000 attendees; 24,000 came. Although the NAR didn't meet projected numbers, the meeting was still its best-attended in New Orleans. Salvant says that the main areas visitors will be concerned with—the French Quarter, the Central Business District and the Garden District—are all well staffed and stocked to handle the influx. "All the folks down there will know who you are and why you're there, and they're grateful," says Mr. Salvant.

"People felt they were really contributing by supporting the city by being there. That was a very tangible feeling around the place," says ACC's Ms. Hamilton. "The city's in transition and so you have to be very aware of what was going on in all the areas that support a major city-wide [convention]."

Because the ACC is comparable in size to the AAO, its meeting provides the most useful barometer for success in November. "In terms of registration, people were very comfortable with the numbers that we ended up with," Ms. Hamilton says. More than 400 companies exhibited, slightly fewer than previous years, and the College's grant support exceeded budget, leading organizers to label it a success.

The College worked closely with the New Orleans Metropolitan Convention & Visitors Bureau, the police department, hotels and the convention center to be sure that everything would be ready for their attendees. "No association could assume it would be fine without a rigorous review process," Ms. Hamilton says. The ACC communicated to its members all that it was doing to prepare, particularly as regards safety.

The city and police department understand the safety concerns and are taking action to address them. "Crime is not unique to New Orleans," says Sgt. Joe Narcisse, spokesman for the NOPD. "What you're seeing is our crime being reported disproportionately."

The NOPD says the majority of crimes in the city surround drug selling, accounting for 85 percent of homicides. Compared to 2005-2006, crimes are down. Violent crime has dropped 22 percent while non-violent crime has fallen 25 percent.

The police department has been vigilant about keeping those numbers down. The state of Louisiana has supplemented the police force with National Guard and state police, freeing up the city's officers to patrol the business centers. In addition to plainclothes officers, police in uniform are posted on the ground and on available perches. "They're trying to be very visible, to give a sense of security," says Edward Holland, MD, secretary for the AAO's annual meeting. Even so, conventioneers are encouraged to practice common sense as they would in any major city.

The AAO expects a strong turnout in spite of anxieties. "New Orleans has been one of the favorite cities of the AAO members and other attendees," says Dr. Holland. He estimates 25,000 to 28,000 in attendance.

Since Katrina, New Orleans has hosted more than 1.6 million tourists, according to the visitors bureau, and rebuilding efforts are constantly under way. More restaurants are open now than before the storm, and two new hotels have been built since the AAO's last visit. The convention center itself has been renovated. "Clearly, New Orleans has come all the way back to be one of the great convention cities in America," Dr. Holland says.

Everything points toward a successful convention for the AAO. Services that conventioneers might need are all up and running. "They have gone out of their way to cooperate with us and work with us to make sure our experience has been great," says Dr. Holland.

"I think if you come you'll love our city," says Sgt. Narcisse. "Once you've been here, you'll want to come again."


AMO Recalls Contact Solution

Advanced Medical Optics last month voluntarily recalled its Complete MoisturePlus contact lens solutions. The company said the move was in response to information received from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regarding eye infections from Acanthamoeba, a naturally occurring water-borne organism that can contribute to serious corneal infections.

CDC completed interviews with 46 patients who had developed Acanthamoeba keratitis since January 2005. A total of 39 of these patients were soft contact lens wearers, 21 of whom reported using Complete MoisturePlus products. The CDC estimates a risk of at least seven times greater for those who used Complete MoisturePlus solution versus those who did not.

AMO says there is no evidence to suggest that the voluntary recall is related to a product contamination issue, and this does not impact any of the company's other contact lens- care products. AMO encourages consumers to discontinue the use of AMO Complete MoisturePlus until further information is available. Given the potential seriousness of the reported Acanthamoeba infections, AMO is working in close partnership with the CDC, the FDA and others to make sure consumers are aware of the need for proper contact lens disinfection and proper lens handling.

Consumers who believe they are in possession of the recalled product should discontinue use immediately and call 1 (888) 899-9183. Adverse reactions experienced with the use of this product and/or quality problems may be reported to AMO at 1 (800) 347-5005 and to the FDA's MedWatch Program by phone at 1 (800) FDA-1088, by fax at 1 (800) FDA-0178, by mail at MedWatch, HF-2, FDA, 5600 Fishers Lane, Rockville, MD 20852-9787, or on the MedWatch website at fda.gov/medwatch.


Acupuncture for Glaucoma?

The quest for an effective method of managing intraocular pressure has reached into traditional Chinese medicine, in the form of an ARVO study at the University of Florida, Gainesville.

The masked, randomized study of the efficacy of electro-acupuncture as a treatment for glaucoma found that one of two different sets of acupuncture points cut elevated IOP in half in male rhesus monkeys. [Brooks DE, et al. IOVS 2007;48:ARVO E-abstract 1281.] The beneficial effect gradually wore off over a period of days.

Twelve monkeys underwent argon laser photocoagulation of the trabecular meshwork in one eye to produce an elevation in IOP; the other eye served as a control. The subjects were randomly divided into three groups: one received no treatment, while each of the remaining groups received a single treatment using one of two acupuncture patterns from traditional Chinese veterinary medicine.

One of the patterns produced a dramatic drop in pressure in the altered eye, from a mean IOP of 41.1 ±8.3 mmHg to 20.9 ±3.3 mmHg one hour post-treatment (p<0.05). IOP was still significantly lower at 24 hours (26.6 ±9.3 mmHg) and 48 hours (27.9 ±3.8 mmHg), but was not significantly lower than baseline by 72 hours (32.6 ±7.1 mmHg). The other two groups showed no significant changes in IOP. Perhaps most notable, IOP in the normal eye of the successfully treated group remained normal, even though treatment was systemic and pressure in the elevated eye was cut by 50 percent. This suggests that the effect was one of normalization rather than pressure reduction per se.

"The therapeutic results of traditional Chinese medicine are sometimes phenomenal," says the principal investigator, Shauna Cantwell, DVM, clinical assistant professor of anesthesiology and pain management in the College of Veterinary Medicine at the university. "Our next step is to investigate the mechanism of action; what are the physiological controls that the acupuncture is accessing? In any case, this study suggests the potential of such an approach."