At DGH, we are regular exhibitors at the American Academy of Ophthalmology annual meeting (this year, in Chicago). Naturally, we are always interested in getting the official attendance figures. They arrived a few days ago.

The AAO statistics compared 2016 attendance with the show two years ago (also in Chicago), rather than last year’s Las Vegas show—a reasonable choice, given that Las Vegas events typically attract more visitors than those in most other cities, and that throws off comparisons. Overall attendance was up by 796 people (from 24,634 in 2014 to 25,430 in 2016), a gain of about 3%. But if only medical professionals are counted (excluding exhibitor personnel and guests), growth was a more modest 1.4%.

Anterior segment: where the action is. More information about the nature of the attendees could be gleaned from the attendance numbers at the “Subspecialty Day” events, which took place the day before the main conference. While the largest crowd (3,514 people, down slightly from 2014) signed up for the Retina track, the specialty with the biggest growth in attendance was Cornea (1,090 people, up 320 from 2014). The emphasis in the Cornea sessions was on infections and on ocular surface diseases and conditions. The Glaucoma track also showed good growth (1,344 people, up 243 from 2014). The numbers suggest that increasing numbers of ophthalmologists are focusing on the front of the eye, rather than the retina.

The growing attention to anterior-segment issues was also reflected in the scientific posters displayed at AAO. There were 1137 posters in all. Of these, half had to do with either cataract surgery (26%) or corneal problems (24%). An additional 13% dealt with refractive surgery, and 10% were about IOLs—all anterior topics. Very few posters dealt with retinal topics.

Taken together, the subspecialty day attendance and the topics of the scientific posters suggest that, although the retina remains a key area of ophthalmic practice, the anterior segment is where the real changes are happening now.