Brussels’ Brain for Excellence

Brussels’ Brain for Excellence

Globally, Belgium, a recognised centre of excellence, ranks in the top five countries for healthcare quality. Over 150 international and Belgian pharma and biotech firms have positioned themselves both in and around the Brussels area.

Research facilities and qualified multilingual personnel are one major incentive, in addition to the Brussels Airport being a key pharma distribution hub. The Brussels region is also home to an expansive—and booming—healthcare infrastructure, complete with 23 hospitals. Among the many specialties Brussels and its surroundings have become renowned for is neurosurgery, making the Belgian capital the perfect place to host the 18th European Congress of Neurosurgery in October.

Neurosurgery is carried out on patients with diseases of the brain, spinal cord, nerves and their coverings (meninges and bones), which can be treated by surgical procedures. It covers a vast area, ranging from brain tumours to herniated discs. The very first neurosurgical department, separate from general surgery, was set up by Professor Paul Martin – now regarded as the promoter of this speciality in Belgium – in Brussels in 1948 at the Jules Bordet Institute, part of the Université Libre de Bruxelles. Since then, Brussels has established several neurosurgery departments in academic and non-academic hospitals, offering advanced technologies and providing patients with a high-level quality of care.


Throughout history, many Belgian academics, professors and scientists were instrumental in increasing global attention on Brussels. In 'History and Development of Neurosurgery in Belgium,' Jacques Brotchi, who created the Neurosurgery Department at the Erasme Hospital, part of the Université Libre de Bruxelles, explains: “Paul Martin and Jean Brihaye, assisted closely by Luc Calliauw and Joel Bonnal (all Belgian citizens), introduced modern neurosurgery in many topics like longitudinal sinus grafting in parasagittal and skull base meningiomas (tumours forming on membranes over the brain and spinal cord).

Bonnal deserves special recognition not only for his technical successes, but also for his clinical neurosurgery skills at a time when new machines like CT scans, MRIs, and PET scans were slowly arriving on the market. In Belgium, there are now more that 20 PET scans for a population of 11 million inhabitants, as well as a number of highlevel papers published in peer-reviewed journals.

Today, work carried out at neurosurgery departments in places like Brussels’ Erasme hospital is making an impact globally. Since debuting, the hospital’s Neurosurgery Department has been recognised for its excellence in the fields of the central nervous system and the spine. In 1998, the department was designated as the "world's leading reference centre for research and training in neurosurgery" by the World Health Organization. In the field of brain tumours, Erasme’s multidisciplinary team has an integrated approach, supported by imaging services and a pathology laboratory.

Erasme specialises in an accurate diagnostic approach to provide patients with a wide variety of treatment options, from the classical surgical approach to Gamma Knife and Cyberknife (a robotic radiosurgery system used to treat tumours), as well as non-invasive brain imaging technique magnetoencephalography —which are all now part of everyday practice.

Belgian neurosurgery experts have also presided over several international societies, including the European Association of Neurosurgical Societies (EANS) in 1979; the French Speaking Society of Neurosurgery in 1992 and 2012; and the World Federation of Neurosurgical Societies in 2005.

Today, there are around 140 neurosurgeons in Belgium performing excellent practice with international recognition.


The young generation, led by Professor Michael Bruneau of the Erasme hospital, recently succeeded in winning EANS2018, the 18th European Congress of Neurosurgery, which will be held at SQUARE Brussels Convention Centre in October. Heralding the theme “Facts, Fiction and Future,” it will bring together around 1,500 experts in their fields and highlight best current practices in all subspecialties of neurosurgery, while also looking at future developments and innovative perspectives. Through a combination of interactive pre-congress courses, plenary sessions and high-level discussion platforms, EANS2018 is set to be a major scientific event.

Professor Michael Bruneau, who also serves as congress president, explains: “Brussels has many assets when it comes to organising a conference. First of all, being in the heart of Europe, our capital can easily be reached by various means of transport. The congress centre is also truly exceptional, with a much-needed modular capacity. It is located in the very heart of the capital, in the immediate vicinity of the magnificent Grand-Place and the city’s cultural sites. The hotel offering is diverse and everyone can find the price range they want. The art of living in Brussels is not a myth and can be discovered through many activities.”

When asked about the value that conferences like EANS2018 can bring, Professor Michael Bruneau concludes: “Large conferences, thanks to the many participants they attract, stimulate the economic life of the capital. They contribute to the international influence of our capital and to the dissemination of the values and the knowledge of our country throughout the world. And when it comes to neurosurgery and our excellence in the field, we have a whole lot of things to share.”


An article by Remi Deve, from Boardroom magazine, the Best Resource for Associationsedition of june 2018.