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Edited by G A Baldwin. ($39.95). Lippincott Williams and Wilkins, 2001. ISBN 0-7817-2236-5
“We have really everything in common with America nowadays, except, of course, language.”
Oscar Wilde, “The Canterville Ghost”, 1887
A good handbook should provide ready access to relevant information in a readable format. One might expect residents to carry it around in their pockets, referring to it with decreasing frequency as their confidence grows. Many published handbooks reflect the practice in a given unit, designed to be used in that unit with all the protocols for that unit documented and expanded upon. As such they will probably travel badly.
There are many areas in which this book is commendable. The chapters have relevant headings and follow a logical pattern. Flow diagrams are well presented. Protocols are logical and relevant to most practices, as are the references at the end of the chapters and sections. These, however, have a significant bias to North American publications, ignoring publications from other geographical areas. Is their Medline different to ours?!
Now, however, we come to Oscar Wilde (see above). This book is driven by North American practice, associated with North American phraseology, terminology and usage. Those of us who get most of our CME from watching “ER” and “Chicago Hope” will probably be familiar with much of the terminology (CBC, BUN, etc). While this is little more than an irritant it does detract from the relevance to United Kingdom practice.
I tried to gain some insights in to the management of some of the children attending my department by delving into the book, after I had seen the patients. In the main I agreed with the principles of care described, but there are areas where I would welcome debate with the authors. I was particularly disappointed not to be able to find anywhere in the book a description of how to perform a femoral nerve block. Surely this would be much more important to include than fig 15.2 showing how to remove a foreign body from an ear?
How does this book fare? The clinical data are good, but the style (and North American slant in particular) detracts from its appeal on this side of the pond. Other than that, Oscar Wilde says it all!