From a handful to hundreds: 21 years of the ISIS annual meeting


The International Spine Intervention Society (ISIS) will hold its 21st annual scientific meeting this year (16–20 July, New York, USA). The president of the society, Ray Baker (Washington Interventional Spine Associates, Kirkland, USA) and vice president Jeffrey Summers (NewSouth NeuroSpine, Mississippi’s Spine Center, Jackson, USA) spoke to Spinal News International about how the meeting has developed over the last 21 years

How has the annual meeting changed over the past 21 years?

The first ISIS annual scientific meeting was held in October 1993 and it was a milestone for injectionists in that it was the first meeting of any US society held solely to address the practice of interventional spinal injections. Initially, it was held as a day-long pre-meeting during the annual meeting of the North American Spine Society (NASS), but the ISIS annual meeting quickly became an independent conference as the number of ISIS members grew. That first meeting bears little resemblance to today’s conference, but its core values and mission remain: research, sharing evidence with colleagues, and educating and supporting our members. Today, hundreds of physicians from all over the world—representing multiple specialties, all dedicated to interventional pain management—attend the meeting.

ISIS itself began in 1989. How did it start and how has it changed over the years?

After becoming frustrated with the lack of content related to spinal interventional pain medicine at a “Spine State of the Art” meeting, a group of physicians decided to start a study group dedicated to the advancement of spinal injection procedures. Initially, they called themselves the “Needle Jockey Club” but the club soon became ISIS.

In 1991, composed of a handful of physicians (including Drs Charles Aprill, Nikolai Bogduk and Richard Derby), the society released its statement of purpose and published its first newsletter. Since then, the society has grown to 3,000 members worldwide. It now holds instructional bioskills labs, anatomy workshops, and the annual scientific meeting. As the society has grown, it committed its resources to the development, evaluation, validation, education and advocacy of percutaneous techniques used in the diagnosis and treatment of spinal disorders. Our mission is to develop and promote the highest standards for the practice of interventional procedures in the diagnosis and treatment of spinal pain.

What are the key themes of this year’s meeting?

The theme of this year’s meeting is “The Future of Spine Interventions”, and it has been designed to enhance the knowledge and clinical competence of physicians and allied healthcare professionals who care for patients with spine-related pain. Among the highlights of the meeting are sessions addressing safe injection practices, managing treatment-related emergencies, updates in spinal cord stimulation therapy, and original research related to spine care and intervention.

Do you have any new elements this year?

The application of ultrasound technology in spinal interventions will be a key feature of this year’s meeting. We are excited to be able to feature several presentations by experts in ultrasound technology for spinal interventions. Our speakers will include internationally renowned Dr Michele Curatolo from Bern, Switzerland, who will examine the state of the art of ultrasound and present the findings of his latest research on this rapidly evolving technology. We will discuss the science behind the technology, and update and examine the latest applications and evidence related to its use in interventional spine care.

How has the field of interventional spine changed over the past 21 years?

Medicine is a constantly changing field, and interventional pain management is no different from other specialties in this regard. Spinal interventions began largely as “blind” injections into the epidural space and peri-spinal joints without the benefit of imaging technology to allow more precise needle placement. As imaging technology improved, and our understanding of the anatomy and pathological basis of spine-related pain evolved, interventional spine procedures became increasingly more target specific, largely due to the pioneering efforts of the original ISIS members, who the society affectionately refer to as its “Founding Fathers.” Burgeoning interest in interventional spine medicine has led to an accelerated pace of research into new methods and technologies. However, like all other medical specialties, interventional pain specialists are under increasing pressure to demonstrate the efficacy, safety and cost effectiveness of their techniques, and are tasked to constantly improve in all of these areas. ISIS’ core mission of advancing research and technology are therefore ideally positioned to play a critical role in the continued advancement of interventional spine care into the future.

How do you hope the meeting and society will evolve in the next 21 years?

The society will continue to evolve with the specialty of interventional pain medicine. Its board members and general membership reflect a wide range of medical specialties, and practice backgrounds, each of which brings different skills and knowledge to the society. We would like to see the society continue to expand its international membership, offer more courses overseas, and continue to increase the number of international physicians attending the annual meeting. In order to fulfil its mission to develop and promote the highest standards for the practice of interventional procedures, the society plans to continue to use its annual meeting as a platform to present and discuss the newest technologies and present the latest data on the safety and efficacy of existing techniques. ISIS will continue to endeavour to expand and update its bioskills labs and offer courses on new technologies as they evolve, instructing our membership on needlecraft and how to perform interventional pain management procedures with optimal safety and efficiency. Finally, we see ISIS continuing to foster and finance research dedicated to exploring new techniques, and examining the efficacy and safety of existing ones.


In the print edition of Spinal News International (issue 28), Dr Summers is stated as “incoming president”. It should have read “vice president”. We apologise for this error.