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Immunologic Disorders in Infants and Children.4th Ed. Edited by E Richard Stiehm. (Pp 1084; £198 hardback.) Harcourt Brace, 1996. ISBN 0-7216-4948-3 .
One problem with multiauthor textbooks is the cost—unless of course you are fortunate enough to be asked to review one for a journal. The other is that they take so long to write, compile, and publish that they may not offer current information, particularly if you don’t rush out and buy them in the month they appear or if you have already owned them for a year or two—and it is reasonable to expect a year or two’s use out of a book of this size. On the other hand, despite the recent appearance of web browsers in our desks, for most of us the reference book remains the first and most convenient rapid source of information when we need to tackle a difficult or unusual clinical problem, at least for the moment. For this purpose, in the field of paediatric immunology, there is no alternative to this book at present. A number of shorter handbooks exist as well as short clinical sections in textbooks of basic immunology. The subject is also covered briefly within various large textbooks of paediatrics, paediatric infectious diseases, and haematology. However, as far as I know, this book is the only full length clinical textbook devoted entirely to this area. Although it would be fair to summarise the consensus on the previous edition of Stiehm as being that it failed satisfactorily to fulfil the role it had set itself, initial impressions of this new edition—I have been using it now a little over a month—are that it does a much better job. For example it successfully led me to a diagnosis I had never heard of (Schinmke’s syndrome) in clinic recently and delivered the relevant recent literature. It has also provided some valuable background and practical material upon which to base teaching on HIV disease despite the fact that this must be one of the fastest changing areas of clinical paediatrics. It is worth mentioning that the book does not restrict itself to discussion of immunodeficiency states, but also steals back some of the bookshelf space from other tomes with useful material on basic, clinical, and pathological aspects of the immunology of a comprehensive range of autoimmune and inflammatory disorders in different organs and systems. Of course I have my copy—if I had been browsing through some one else’s over the last months I would now be ordering my own—but then I am a paediatric immunologist. If you aren’t you may prefer to locate a copy you can get access to from time to time.