A Brief History of the World Congress of Regional Anaesthesia

Jul 20, 2018, 16:23 PM by Narinder Rawal

The concept of having a World Congress of Regional Anesthesia was an evolutionary process that started in the 1980s with joint ASRA and European Society of Regional Anesthesia (ESRA) meetings in Vienna (Austria) and Williamsburg, Virginia (United States) and in the 1990s in Brussels (Belgium), Auckland (New Zealand), and Quebec (Canada), the latter two under the auspices of the International Society of Regional Anaesthesia (ISRA).

“The success of the first world congress encouraged the presidents and secretaries of all four zonal regional anesthesia societies to have such meetings at 4-year intervals on a rotating basis.”

The idea of arranging a World Congress of Regional Anesthesia to promote regional anesthesia and analgesia techniques with an international perspective and supported by all the major regional anesthesia societies was floated in ESRA under the leadership of Narinder Rawal (secretary general) and André van Zundert (president), with the ESRA Board approving the event. Instead of the regular annual meeting in 2002 in Barcelona, it was decided to have a truly international scientific program by including faculty from all four major regional anesthesia societies: ASRA, ESRA, the Latin America Society of Regional Anesthesia (LASRA), and the Asian and Oceanic Society of Regional Anesthesia (AOSRA), including presidents and secretaries from each society. More than 110 international speakers from all four societies participated. The extensive scientific program included topics of interest to delegates from low-resource countries, and a large number of workshops included cadaver and anaesthetized pigs. The Barcelona World Congress on Regional Anesthesia was very successful, with the highest number of attendees ever in a regional anesthesia congress (about 1,800). Michael Cousins from Australia was the Carl Koller award recipient that year (Figure 1).

The success of the first World Congress of Regional Anesthesia encouraged the presidents and secretaries of all four regional anesthesia societies to have such meetings at 4-year intervals on a rotating basis. It was agreed that all the administrative and financial arrangements would be the responsibility of the organizing society. The second World Congress took place in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) in 2006 under the auspices of LASRA (Figure 2). Although there were several administrative challenges, approximately 700 delegates attended the congress.

Susilo Chandra (Indonesia) and Stephen Gatt (Australia) were formally awarded the third World Congress meeting held in Sydney, Australia, in 2010 (Figure 3). Again, because of administrative problems, the congress was postponed until 2013. Chandra Kumar (Singapore), Ezzat Aziz (Egypt), Susilo Chandra (Indonesia), and André van Zundert (the Netherlands) provided important support in reviving the project. Despite the many challenges including funding problems, the congress president Stephen Gatt managed to put together the congress in 2013 with more than 80 international speakers and approximately 700 delegates. The scientific program included several workshops with phantoms, models, cadavers, and anesthetized pigs as well as ultrasound-guided regional techniques. The 4th World Congress was awarded to Ezzat Aziz (Egypt) and Milton Raff (South Africa) under the banner of the newly formed African Society of Regional Anesthesia. The congress was scheduled to take place in Cairo, but owing to political turmoil in Egypt, it was agreed to move the venue to Cape Town, South Africa (Figure 4). The congress took place just 1 year later in 2014 under the presidency of Ezzat Aziz with Chandra Kumar (Singapore) as scientific chairman and Manoj Karmakar (Hong Kong) as workshop chairman. Narinder Rawal (Sweden) supervised both scientific committees supported by two representatives from each zonal society. Approximately 880 delegates participated, including 110 international speakers. Model, cadaver, and anesthetized pigs as well as ultrasound-guided regional techniques were included in the workshop program. The scientific program was adapted to the international ethos and participation of the congress. In addition to the usual scientific program, there were sessions relevant to delegates from Africa, Asia, and Latin America.


After Barcelona, Rio de Janeiro, Sydney, and Cape Town, the World Congress now moves to North America under the leadership of Asokumar Buvanendran, MD, ASRA president, and Vincent Chan, past-president ASRA and chair of the 2018 World Congress Scientific/Educational Planning Committee. The choice of New York as the venue for the 5th World Congress of Regional Anaesthesia is in keeping with the tradition of selecting truly extraordinary locations. We look forward to another world-class congress in one of the greatest cities in the world.


The author would like to acknowledge the important contributions of the following persons in preparing this article: André van Zundert (Australia), Chandra Kumar (Singapore), Ezzat Aziz (Egypt), and Steven Gatt (Australia).

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