Review of manual of emergency airway management
R M Walls, editor in chief. (Pp256; $42.95). Lippincott Williams and Wilkins, 2000. ISBN 0 7817 2616 6
The front cover of this book bears the words: “Companion manual to the National Emergency Airway Management Course”.
It is in this role that the book's design and concept was developed. It is not surprising therefore that the book achieves its maximum potential when used in that role. This is particularly evident in those chapters such as “Special devices for the difficult or failed airway” where complex psychomotor skills are described in print. Although the illustrations are good and the descriptions of the skills are as clear and concise as has been managed anywhere, these cannot replace the practice of those skills that the course permits. The combination of the manual and the course is strongly recommended as a powerful learning experience by this reviewer.
Even taken without the course the book itself is well worth owning. It fully lives up to its own description of itself as “the first and only complete guide to emergency airway management”.
The chapters are logical in their sequence and offer a stepwise guide through decision making and practical procedures in emergency airway management. They have clearly been written by people sympathetic to the needs of adult learners. Examples of this sympathy include the airway algorithms, which are clear, binary and linked together seamlessly; the mnemonics which are few and easily remembered; the tips and pearls section at the end of many of the chapters (which serve in addition to emphasise and underline the experience of the authors).
Some differences in practice between North America and the United Kingdom are apparent. A specific example lies in the use of pretreatment drugs before rapid sequence intubation. A more general example lies in the contrast between the roles and the relationships of emergency physicians and anaesthetists on either side of the Atlantic. These differences are most usefully seen as a trigger for reflective debate rather than as a reason to view the book as not applicable to UK practice. It most certainly is applicable to UK practice and would be useful reading for every trainee in anaesthesia, ITU, and accident and emergency.