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E Sherry, L Trieu, J Templeton. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003, £95, pp 786. ISBN 0-19-263179-9
It is sometimes difficult to review a textbook of this size. Only a fool—or someone with too much time on their hands—would attempt to read a book like this from cover to cover. I certainly failed in my attempt, and therefore decided to leave it in our office as a clinical resource over a three month period.
So, what did three months of use tell me? Well, I did try hard to get on with this book. At first I went to it as a primary source of information when my memory failed, or when the unexpected arose. On a positive note, the breadth of the book was impressive, there was usually a section that covered my clinical query. The comprehensive chapter list covers most trauma problems that present to a UK emergency department. Everything is here from initial assessment to the rehabilitation of trauma; in addition, there are some unexpected (but arguably related) diversions into topics such as acute psychological disease and child sex abuse.
On the downside, the factual content of the book is just not up to the level that a senior emergency physician would find useful and I found my initial enthusiasm waning fairly rapidly. The text in many of the chapters is non-committal and really represents an overview of the subject matter (for example, a whole chapter on the brachial plexus only demonstrates five nerve branches). Recommendations for investigation or treatment are frequently too vague to be transferable to individual clinical cases. Another criticism is the enormous number of key point summaries littered throughout the text. Ordinarily I am a big fan of such micro-summaries, but here they are so frequent that they become irritating, popping up as they do every few paragraphs or so. In many cases, they do not necessarily represent micro-summaries of facts, rather they reiterate the authors’ opinions on the content of the preceding pages.
There are exceptions to my critique with some well presented chapters; for example, the chapter on ophthalmic trauma is quite good as are several of the chapters on musculoskeletal trauma. However, the variability in approach, style, and quality between chapters reflects on the editorial approach to the book.
After three months, I have stopped trying to get anything from this book. If a junior colleague or student came to me looking for an overview of trauma management, then this book may provide it. However, as an active clinician I found there to be insufficient depth to help deal with individual cases and problems. Finally, at a rather pricey £95 I would advise a colleague’s money to go elsewhere.
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