Essential Anesthesia: From Science to Practice . By Tammy Y. Euliano, M.D., and Joachim S. Gravenstein, M.D., Cambridge, United Kingdom, Cambridge University Press, 2005. Pages: 250. Price: $39.99.

As many medical students rotating through anesthesiology have discovered, the practice of anesthesia involves more than the placement of endotracheal tubes and intravascular catheters. Although we have many excellent and comprehensive texts in our field, attempting to read these texts during a relatively short rotation is not only impractical, but may also prove overwhelming for the student. In this regard, recommending a book that provides an adequate exposure to the field and can be read in a relatively short period of time has been a daunting task for those of us in academic anesthesiology—that is, up until now. Essential Anesthesia  by Euliano and Gravenstein is targeted to medical students, but as the authors have stated, the text may also prove beneficial to healthcare providers in other specialties seeking a brief overview of the practice of anesthesiology.

The novice anesthetist will find the layout of the text quite refreshing. By addressing very practical information early and leaving detail-oriented information to later sections, the authors have successfully grabbed the attention of the reader in the first few pages. The first chapter of the book presents a “brief” history of the field of anesthesiology. Although the history is significant and interesting to many of us, medical students looking for an introductory rotation may not be as enthused. In this regard, I give the authors credit for keeping this chapter succinct and referring the reader to other texts.

The next two chapters introduce the reader to airway management, vascular access, and fluid management. Interestingly, students are frequently involved with these skills as their first exposure to anesthesiology. Presenting these early in the book, therefore, is very intuitive. The chapter on vascular access is an excellent example of the practical nature of the text. In this chapter, among other concepts, the step-by-step process of placing an intravenous catheter is detailed. This is the sort of information you often cannot find in textbooks and is learned firsthand. Students and other providers learning to place intravenous catheters will find this useful.

Options for regional and general anesthesia are discussed in the next chapters. Again, these are oversimplified, but are excellent as a general overview. Finally, a chapter dedicated to postoperative care and common problems in the postoperative period is presented, followed by a chapter on monitoring. The latter chapter should be read by all anesthesia providers, because it is an excellent reminder of some of the more simple monitors we have (e.g. , stethoscope, fingers). Although monitoring in anesthesia has come a long way during the past several decades, some of the best monitors are still the simple, commonsense ones.

The next section of the book is dedicated to applied physiology and pharmacology. The cardiovascular and pulmonary systems have dedicated chapters, whereas the other organ systems are merged into a single chapter. Hopefully this will not offend our colleagues in other subspecialties! The chapter on pharmacology provides the appropriate amount of information that a student should acquire during an anesthesiology rotation. The final section of the book is devoted to several sample cases that are simple enough for most students to understand but introduce topics that will likely lead to further discussion.

Based on the presentation of the material in this book, it is obvious that Euliano and Gravenstein have significant experience teaching. The material is presented in an orderly and concise manner, which will benefit students and other learners alike. Although it would be unwise to rely on this text to pass anesthesiology board examinations (and that was not the intent), this book should be on the reading list of anyone rotating through an anesthesia department or those interested in a brief overview. Hopefully this text will peak the interest of more medical students and help to recruit high-quality people into anesthesiology.

Mayo Medical School, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota.