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Edited by Timothy J David. London: The Royal Society of Medicine Press Limited, 2004, £35.00, pp 242. ISBN 1 85315 597 7
Like many paediatricians, I first became familiar with the Recent Advances series when I was a trainee and have been reading it faithfully ever since. I was therefore delighted to be invited to review the latest edition. There is something of interest in this book to any practising paediatrician, from a generalist in a rural hospital in India to a specialist in a tertiary paediatric hospital in the western world. Having said that, this book is probably most relevant to a paediatrician, like me, working in a bog standard general hospital, who looks after children from birth to adulthood in hospital and community settings. One can see that the topics are chosen with care, to be relevant to as wide an audience as possible. The editor acknowledges the fact that there is a bias towards more community paediatric topics in this particular edition, because this area is generally not very well covered in textbooks and journals dealing with general paediatrics. I welcome this trend, as most paediatric trainees have less than adequate exposure to care of children in the community, and any attempt to address this gap in knowledge is very welcome.
The book opens with chapters on abusive head trauma and sudden unexpected death in infancy. This will grab the attention of any paediatrician straight away, as child protection has been a high profile and controversial area recently. Any authoritative and evidence based review of this difficult and controversial area of paediatric practice will help day to day clinical practice.
Chapters on neonatal thrombocytopenia, neonatal abstinence syndrome, and jaundice in preterm infants provide an up to date review of these common neonatal clinical problems. The chapter on congenital brachial palsy provides very detailed information about this rare but potentially disabling condition and is clearly written by experts in the field who have done original work.
As a general paediatrician with an interest in paediatric rheumatology, I found the chapter on DXA scanning particularly interesting. It highlights the importance of knowing the limitations as well as the advantages of any new investigation. There is a similar review of the use of MRI scanning of the preterm brain to help with predicting developmental prognosis of premature babies who have gone through neonatal intensive care.
There is also an interesting chapter on trachoma, which is the second most important cause of blindness worldwide. This is a reminder that, in low income countries, there are a lot of children who are still suffering from disability secondary to eminently preventable communicable diseases.
At the end of the book there is an excellent literature review. It provides the most succinct review of interesting articles published during the year in question.
In the era of continuing professional development, personal learning plans, appraisals, learning objectives, and revalidation, it has become vital to show that every doctor is keeping up to date with the developments in their chosen field of medical practice. A lot of paediatricians depend on the recent advances series to achieve this.
It is a well produced book with high quality printing in a very readable layout. It is difficult to suggest how this book can be improved, but more illustrations and introduction of colour could be one way of making this already good book into an excellent one.
Even though reviews from experts come low down in the hierarchy of evidence based medicine, this book always provides well referenced and up to date practical information, which will save a lot of hours for a busy clinician. I would recommend this book to any paediatrician who wants to keep themselves up to date. It is excellent value for money and should be an essential addition to every departmental and hospital library.