Anesthesia Review. By Michelle Bowen-Howard.Philadelphia, Lippincott–Raven, 2000. Pages: 380. Cost: $39.95.
Anesthesia Review is not what I expected and emphasizes the cliché, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” The majority of the book is written in the typical and popular outline format of many other review textbooks. I always have thought this format to be unpalatable and difficult to read, although I know others prefer it because it allows quick acquisition of key information. This review text, however, is different. It is divided into three main sections: (1) focused questions, (2) outlined answers to the questions, and (3) pertinent case scenarios. The text is subdivided into sections about general aspects, physiology, pharmacology, subspecialty anesthesia (including regional and pain management), and coexisting disease. Although far from complete, this text would be a good study guide for anesthesiologists, anesthesia residents, and nurse anesthetists who are preparing for examinations. I also think this book would make a great addition to an academic anesthesiologist’s bookshelf.
The greatest strength of this book is its use as a teaching tool for key concepts. The author originally created it as part of an anesthesia resident education curriculum. The question-and-answer design helps to stimulate discussions between faculty and students and to improve acquisition of knowledge. It is important to use the book as it was designed. First, the question section stimulates discussion and forces the reader to think through the question. Second, the answer section allows the reader to check his or her knowledge and acquire the necessary information. Third, the reader can apply this new information to the case scenarios in the final portion of the book. As I read this book, I used it as a teaching tool for residents (and students) and found it to be an effective tool, if used properly (as outlined previously). Sometimes, the questions led to more questions and to further investigation beyond the answers contained in this book. I believe this is what the author wanted to achieve.
My biggest complaint about this book is not the content, but the way it is organized. I would have preferred a more compartmentalized design. As written, the book contains the entire question section (pages 3–104) followed by the answers (pages 105–337), and the case scenarios are toward the end of the book (after the references). The constant flipping back and forth is consistently a minor annoyance. It is also easy to lose one’s place. It may have been easier to follow the questions for each topic immediately by answers and a case discussion.
I would have liked more diagrams throughout in the book. The author used some very effective ones, such as the Mapleson circuits, end-tidal carbon dioxide tracing, the oxyhemoglobin curve, pulmonary function tests, and flow volume loops. These diagrams were presented in a simple and reproducible fashion.
Although this book may not teach everything the reader needs to know about anesthesia, it expands the mind and makes the reader think. Compared with other review books, this one is priced competitively. If properly used (question-and-answer format), it is a great tool for learning key concepts, which are necessary for passing exams. More importantly, it provided me with endless material for torturing the residents:“Tell me, how does the viscosity of a gas affect the flow rate during turbulent flow? And while you are thinking, draw me the Mapleson circuits!”