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Paediatric Neurology. Third edition. Edited by EM Brett. (Pp 928 hardback; £145.) Churchill Livingstone, 1997. ISBN 0-443-05200-X.
Edward Brett’s textbook of paediatric neurology remains a standard reference for this growing specialty. When first published in 1983 it was one of a relatively small number of books on the subject but now has to compete with many other quality reference books. The knowledge base in paediatric neurology is expanding, as predicted by Brett in the preface to his first edition. There was a significant increase in information between the first and second edition, published in 1991. The third edition shows a further, although less dramatic expansion. The third edition is more of a multiauthor text, which does slightly detract from the very personal approach so characteristic of the first edition. The new information is important, including data on the influence of Haemophilus influenzae vaccination in the United Kingdom, expanded discussion of central nervous system involvement in HIV and AIDS, and some discussion of the prion diseases. The third edition has lost the important chapter on neurogenetics (presumably an encouragement for us to purchase Dr Baraitser’s neurogenetics database).
The strength of Brett’s book remains his personal style, with information drawn from a breadth and depth of personal experience few of us will achieve in our lifetimes. For those of us who have been privileged to work with the author the pages come alive with his presence, with emphasis on the basis of all good medicine—that is, taking a history, careful examination with appropriate investigation to confirm the clinical diagnosis. The practising clinician needs to have a good understanding of the important rare conditions. This is not a book of lists but its contents are enriched with historical background and other information derived from long personal experience. I often refer patients to this book, including families who have a child with one of the more distressing conditions, because of the thorough and sympathetic manner in which these disorders are discussed. Paediatric neurology remains one of the great clinical specialties. This text is written by a clinician with the clinical approach in mind and will remain an important source reference for me for many years to come.