Key Topics in Critical Care, 2nd Edition.  By T. M. Craft, J. P. Nolan, and M. J. A. Parr. London, Taylor & Francis Group, 2004. Pages: 353. Price: $50.00.

In the practice of critical care, there often exists the need for an efficient source of information that can be carried within the laboratory coat. In this regard, the textbook Key Topics in Critical Care  clearly meets these standards. The text reflects the efforts of multiple clinicians within the United Kingdom and Australia, providing succinct overviews of 85 relevant intensive care unit topics. Within each topic are the relevant “clinical pearls,” accompanied by select references to reviews as well as a limited number of pertinent clinical studies. The scope of coverage is relatively broad and is helpful to clinicians with responsibilities in multidisciplinary medical and surgical intensive care units. It will particularly appeal to medical students and physicians in training, who should be able to read the text from cover to cover during the strenuous intensive care unit clinical rotation. Furthermore, the topics have just enough detail and current opinions to facilitate didactic, clinical patient rounds.

Each clinical topic is organized in an outline format, allowing efficient identification of significant areas of interest. The text is easy to read, and the multiple authors are to the point in their clinical recommendations. During my review, I particularly enjoyed the chapters on cardiac output measurement, emphasizing a variety of methods not widely used in the United States, including lithium indicator dilution (LiDCO; LiDCO Ltd., Cambridge, United Kingdom), pulse contour cardiac output (PiCCO®; Pulsion Medical Systems AG, Munich, Germany), the Fick partial rebreathing method (NICO®; Novametrix Medical Systems, Wallingford, CT), and aortic Doppler methods. Similarly, the chapters on hypothermia, blood transfusion, and end-of-life care are particularly well done. With regard to antibiotic therapy selection, a practice that can be associated with significant variability, there are opportunities for improvement, with the need for greater depth and supplemental references.

There are unavoidable challenges for a text summarizing essential topics in critical care—a specialty that requires meticulous decision making. It has been said that “simplicity is always a dangerous observer” (anonymous). In this regard, Key Topics in Critical Care  is clearly readable and helpful in certain areas. I continue, however, to seek a reference about everything  I need to know in a compact source that I can see without my bifocals.

University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, Iowa City, Iowa.