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Physiological and pathological auxology
  1. J K Wales

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    Edited by Ivan Nicoletti, Lodovico Benso, Giulio Gilli. Florence: Nicompe, 2004, €130.00, pp 653. ISBN 88-87814-22-8

    Auxology, for the uninitiated, is the study of growth. This large book aims to cover exactly what it says in the title: normal growth and how to measure it, and abnormal growth secondary to illness. It is a multi-author text (n = 67), mainly with European contributors, and is edited by a well respected Italian team. The nearest book in scope would be the classic Faulkner and Tanner three volume treatise Human growth, last published in 1986.

    Thirty per cent of the volume concerns the physiology of growth and body composition, how to measure children, the construction of reference standards, and normality. Sadly there is little on the assessment of the inter- and intra-observer accuracy of various measurements that would have been useful for those involved in designing growth studies. The largest, middle portion of the book relates to the growth patterns associated with a list of disorders. There is an uneasy tension between concentrating on pathological growth in, say, thalassaemia to the exclusion of other clinical and treatment details, which are not uniformly tackled by each writer. Although fairly comprehensive in scope, some major causes of poor growth that would be a common referral to an endocrine unit are hardly mentioned. One would have to consult other texts for more clinical information after reading many of the chapters. It would have been useful to include reference charts of growth in the skeletal dysplasia in particular, which chapter is largely based on radiographs. The final part of the text deals with social and epidemiological aspects of growth and an eclectic number of national charts are given as an appendix.

    Like all multi-author texts there is inevitably a variation in the quality of the content. Some important recent developments in auxological technique and growth studies are ignored altogether. However, some chapters are completely current and well written and deserve a wider audience. One huge 40 page chapter in a rapidly expanding field has no references more current than the late 1990s and feels dated. This sensation is reinforced by the historical nature of some of the illustrations that date from the middle of the last century and are of poor quality, and an unusual font and layout throughout which is reminiscent of typewritten dissertations of the pre-word processing era.

    This is a reference book that belongs in libraries of large units with an interest in growth related research or regional endocrine centres. There is little that would appeal to a more general reader without these specialised needs.

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