Pediatric Critical Care: The Essentials. Edited by Joseph D. Tobias, M.D. Futura, 1999. Pages: 480. Price: $75.

In the preface of Pediatric Critical Care: The Essentials , the editor, Dr. Joseph Tobias, states that the purpose of this book is “to provide a preliminary overview or introduction to [pediatric] critical care medicine.” It is also intended to serve as a resource for medical students, residents, and nurses working in a pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) and for the general pediatrician who is occasionally presented with caring for a critically ill child. These intentions are well-met with this book.

Each chapter of this book is well-organized and easy to read. In each chapter, the reader is presented with just enough information to grasp the basic concepts, but not too much information to make the reading burdensome. The tables in each section summarize well the text presented and can be readily referred to when a need arises to access information quickly. This book is also refreshing in that the information presented, especially concerning drugs and therapeutic regiments, is as current as it can possibly be.

Each chapter in the book is well-written; however, several of the chapters deserve specific recognition. Dr. Martin’s chapter, “Mechanical Ventilation, Respiratory Monitoring, and the Basics of Pulmonary Physiology” is an excellent review of basic pulmonary physiology as its relates to mechanical ventilation. Furthermore, the graphics presented for the various methods of ventilation allow the reader to understand more easily the nuances of modern mechanical ventilation. This is a chapter all medical students should read.

One of the chapters written by Dr. Tobias, “The Use of Sedative/Analgesics and Neuromuscular Blocking Agents in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit,” reflects his extensive experience in this area. This comprehensive review of new, and old, agents used to provide sedation, analgesia, and neuromuscular blockade for pediatric patients will serve as a resource not only for his intended audience, but also for the practicing pediatric intensivist.

The chapter “Blood Product and Coagulation Function” provides practical information and a review of antifibrinolytic agents usually not found in the major pediatric critical care textbooks. The chapter “Congenital Heart Diseases/Arrhythmias” has excellent illustrations of the most common congenital cardiac defects and an appendix of medications any healthcare provider in a PICU will find very useful.

The only criticism of this book is its brevity. For instance, a discussion of the use of BiPap and negative pressure ventilation could be included in the chapter “Alternative Modes of Respiratory Support,” and the chapter “Diabetic Ketoacidosis” could be included in a generalized chapter about endocrinologic disorders. A chapter devoted solely to diabetic ketoacidosis, however, is appropriate because this is the most common endocrinologic disorder seen in the PICU. The brevity of this book, however, is more of an asset than a criticism.

Pediatric Critical Care: The Essentials  meets its objective to provide useful and practical information regarding the initial stabilization and treatment of a critically ill child, in addition to giving an overview as to how these children are treated in the PICU. I would recommend this book to any student, housestaff officer, or nurse working in a PICU. Practicing pediatricians and primary care physicians without ready access to tertiary pediatric critical care centers will also find this book to be very helpful. Pediatric intensivists may also like this book for the specific chapters mentioned herein. Its relatively low cost, as compared with the major pediatric critical care textbooks, makes it a bargain.