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G R Park, and A Serrano. London: Greenwich Medical Media, 2003, £12.50, ISBN 1-84110-175-3
This pocket sized reference book is aptly named—it contains, as the title suggests, “key facts” and no more. It provides a source of data and guidelines mostly in the form of tables and flow charts on many aspects of anaesthesia and intensive care. Chapters include normal biochemical and haematological values; resuscitation guidelines; anaesthetic equipment checklists; adult and paediatric drug doses; guidance on ventilation, sedation, and other aspects of management of the critically ill patient; and, finally, some of the commonly used scoring systems such as the Glasgow coma score and APACHE II.
This book is by no means an interesting read, but neither is it meant to be. I imagine it would be invaluable to a limited audience—namely first year anaesthetists and probably students and trainees from other specialties completing anaesthetic secondments.
The main strengths of the book are the credibility of the authors coupled with concise and generally accurate and up to date checklists and protocols for the management of basic anaesthetic and intensive care problems. I particularly liked the section on paediatric anaesthetic information, which was clear and succinct, yet included all the important data for routine practice.
However, I felt that some of the information was either too basic or unnecessary in a book of this type. Normal values differ between laboratories and, therefore, one could question their usefulness to anyone other than students. Cardiac arrest protocols should be committed to memory rather than being looked up in a pocket book in the heat of the moment, and there are sources for these that are continuously updated elsewhere. The references seemed accurate and up to date but it was noticeable that much of the information was taken from the web site of the Association of Anaesthetists of Great Britain and Ireland.
The book seems to fill a gap in the market in that there does not seem to be any similar publications in this price range.
Therefore, I would recommend this book as a good introductory reference book to those starting in anaesthetics but that its usefulness would inevitably decrease rapidly as experience was gained.