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Edited by Timothy J David. London: Royal Society of Medicine Press, 2004, £35.00 (paperback), pp 249. ISBN 1 85315 572 1
The latest in the Recent advances in paediatrics series intends, as the preface states, to provide a review of important topics and help keep doctors abreast of developments in the subject. It is aimed at practising clinicians, trainee paediatricians, and those preparing for specialty examinations. It contains 14 chapters covering a variety of general paediatric, neonatal, and community paediatric topics, as well as a literature review listing key articles and selected reviews published in 2002. The chapters themselves are generally broken down into specific areas for debate, and round off with a listing of key points for clinical practice and a literature review.
The subject matter chosen is varied and diverse, including summaries of recent developments and current practise in areas such as Kawasaki disease, asthma, diabetes mellitus, idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura, inhaled nitric oxide in the newborn, the use of cannabis in teenagers, and childhood depression. The chapters are well written by respected authors in the appropriate fields. They break down well into bite sized chunks of easily digestible information, and contain a good sprinkling of diagrams and tables, with the occasional radiograph and clinical photograph. There are excellent treatises on very common and relevant areas in which the literature is traditionally rather neglectful. The chapters on head lice, cannabis use, weaning from assisted ventilation, and safe sedation provide invaluable advice and experience in dealing with everyday clinical situations on which little is generally written. The “Key points for clinical practice” boxes provide wonderful, concise summaries of the preceding chapters, although one feels that it may have been more effective to keep each box restricted to one page of the book instead of frequently spilling over into two. The diagrams and tables are relevant, but occasionally a little fuzzy and sadly lacking in colour. The radiographs and photographs are clear, but seem on the whole to add little to the subjects. The literature review is very well set out and will help to guide further reading.
The book is aimed at clinicians and trainees and does indeed cover topics in general and community paediatrics and neonatology. It will probably be more relevant to non-specialist practitioners and more junior trainees aiming to update their knowledge, but is unlikely to be a substantial enough review for those in more specialist areas such as neonataology. It may not add much to the cause of passing specialty examinations other than to direct further reading. Where this book will absolutely shine, however, is as a teaching aid. Whether it is used as a reference for common topics or as summary of the recent literature, it will provoke discussion and debate and is likely to engage the reader in the pursuit of further knowledge. It could serve well as the basis for a series of journal clubs or a starting point for the development of departmental protocols. Even better, it could be used in directed small group teaching with medical students, senior house officers, GP trainees, or core paediatric specialist registrars in order to summarise current opinion, promote the invaluable exchange of ideas and experience, and guide further reading and study. Maybe not every clinician, but certainly every paediatric department could make excellent use of this book.