Foundations of Anesthesia: Basic and Clinical Sciences. Edited by Hugh C. Hemmings, Jr., Philip M. Hopkins. London, Mosby, 2000. Pages: 748. Price: $129.00.

In busy operating rooms throughout the world, as anesthesiologists rush to get the next case started and make their way through the operating room schedule, the basic sciences are seldom given a thought. The art of anesthesia is what most veteran anesthesiologists strive to achieve and take great pride in accomplishing. However, this art of anesthesia is only possible by thoroughly understanding the scientific principles of the human body, the pharmacologic agents used, and the myriad techniques used. Unfortunately, the preclinical basic science classes are often viewed as only something to endure before the really important clinical material. Foundations of Anesthesia: Basic and Clinical Sciences  is an attempt to bring together in one text the basic scientific principles that form the foundation of the practice of anesthesia.

An international collection of authors contributed to the 70-chapter text, including many well-recognized authorities. The book is divided into eight sections (General Principles, Neurosciences, Cardiovascular System, Respiratory System, Pathological Sciences, Renal System, Gastrointestinal System and Metabolism, and Adaptive Physiology). Each section contains from 3 to 17 chapters, with the largest sections being General Principles and Neurosciences. The individual chapters are self-contained and provide the specific scientific principles necessary to understand the “why” of most aspects of anesthesia practice. A very brief list of key references is included with each chapter, along with suggested further readings. Several of the chapters are strictly basic science, with no specific reference to anesthesia, but the majority either have specific relevance to anesthesia or contain sections describing relevance to anesthesia.

The aim of the text is to present in a conceptual manner the scientific principles of anesthesia and the clinical applications of these principles. It should be noted the text does not provide explanations of techniques because these are readily available in other anesthetic texts.

The text is visually appealing and extremely easy to use. The individual sections are color coded so that the headings on each page of a section are the same color, allowing for easy visual reference. There are extensive full-color illustrations on almost every page, which greatly aids in understanding the concepts being reviewed. These illustrations are excellent, and their presentation makes the text a pleasure to use. Despite the often highly technical material, the illustrations convey the concepts in a pleasing format, which is distinctly different from the usual dry anesthetic textbook style.

The basic science nature of the text would suggest students of anesthesia as the primary audience. Certainly, the text will be helpful to students as a single volume that presents the basic science principles of anesthetic practice. However, experienced practitioners will find the text to be a convenient source of concise information that reviews the most recent scientific basis for the practice of anesthesia. I found myself reading the chapters on molecular biology and physiology in an attempt to understand the rapidly changing information in these areas. Reviewing these basic scientific principles is more enjoyable when your perspective allows you to focus on the reason why you do what now comes naturally, and I believe this renewed integration will make for better anesthesia providers.

Foundations of Anesthesia: Basic and Clinical Sciences  would be an excellent addition to any anesthesia library. The price of the text is consistent with that of other major anesthetic texts, and the large volume of color illustrations is refreshing. This easy-to-use text will serve the student as well as the experienced practitioner and should be strongly considered by both.