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Edited by C G Stack, P Dobbs. London: Greenwich Medical Media Limited, 2004, £14.50, pp 222. ISBN 1 84110 053 6
The “Lecture Notes” series of books never really struck me as being well named. Sure, they were short books, but they were nothing like the lecture notes I would make. Following this logic, perhaps Essentials of paediatric intensive care could be renamed as Lecture notes… This is a very concise textbook, using lists and bullet points wherever possible to present a great deal of information. There is little straight text. The feeling is that of reading lecture notes rather than a book.
The layout is highly structured with multiple titles and subtitles, which enables the reader to find answers quickly, when the system is correct. Unfortunately, there are a number of occasions when the headings are not formatted consistently, which leads to confusion in how the sections relate. This book is obviously designed for quick reference and as a memory jolter rather than for reading through. It should probably be kept at the bedside or in a pocket rather than left on shelves.
However, the book, as it states in the title, only covers the essentials of PICU. Since the scenarios when a quick answer might be required are often the more complex problems, I do wonder how useful this book really will be. The book tries to cover the essentials of PICU, but the authors obviously felt that they had to include some general and background paediatrics and topics that are associated with, but not directly, intensive care. This may be a common difficulty for all short textbooks with a wide clinical scope. So, although this book is small and compact, it does attempt to cover a very large amount. Perhaps if the book was to be a “PICU handbook” it might be better limiting itself to “pure PICU”. This might also allow it to contain more detail and cover more complex issues while remaining the same size.
The real target audience for this book seems possibly to be doctors with limited paediatric knowledge who are working on a PICU, such as trainee anaesthetists. Indeed, both authors come from an anaesthetic as well as PICU background. The general paediatrics in this book seems unnecessary for paediatric registrars.
I am sure no one reading this needs me to tell them that medical textbooks are not cheap. What I am not sure of is whether you get what you pay for? Essentials of paediatric intensive care is certainly cheap, it does contain a great deal of information, and the style lends itself to quick reference. I would definitely recommend it to the occasional paediatrician who has to cover PICU and possibly to those in their first post, because it will provide the absolute basics of PICU and give some general paediatric context. However, for paediatricians who hope to follow a career in PICU, I am sure that further textbooks would be required fairly soon in the training.
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