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Abdominal Surgery of Infancy and Childhood. Volumes 1 and 2. Edited by W L Donnell, K Kimura, J Schafer, J White. (£225). Harwood Academic Publishers, 1996. ISBN 3 7186 5409 1 .
Paediatric surgery has changed dramatically over the past 10 years. The publication of another voluminous textbook reflects the expansion of this subject. The remit of this text is restricted to surgery of the abdomen, which is more limited in scope than other texts. However, it does not compensate by providing greater depth or detail.
A number of chapters discuss changes in the specialty (for example, laparoscopy) and are concise, well written, informative, with good diagrams, and up to date references. Alas, many chapters regurgitate old theories and time honoured beliefs and methods without sufficient reference to more recent and alternative approaches. Even allowing for the lag time between writing a textbook and its publication, this edition appears remarkably obsolete. New developments in wound healing, fetal surgery, molecular biology, chromosomal markers, and new understandings in diaphragmatic hernias are either omitted or skimmed over.
The book is generally well illustrated with high quality diagrams and photographs (although pictures of the redcurrant jelly stool of intussusception and bile stained vomitus of obstruction lose their impact in black and white!). It also suffers the fate of many multiple authored tomes, of having an inconsistent style of writing, unnecessary duplication, and occasional contradictory information.
Any new edition of a textbook is an opportunity to approach the subject in a fresh and novel manner; unfortunately, this has not happened and I found the book uninspiring and disappointing. It remains, however, a useful reference book, if somewhat historical.