It seems like everyone has a neurotrauma textbook these days. A relatively small subspecialty can only support so many textbooks without one just being a rehash of the next. I was in a bit of a cynical mood when I first picked up Atlas of Emergency Neurosurgery, and I expected to see a tome full of familiar chapters by familiar people. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
It only takes a few page flips to recognize that Atlas of Emergency Neurosurgery is very different; unique is perhaps an understatement. Unlike most contemporary textbooks which try to cram as much information as possible onto each page, I found myself staring at lovely, full-page illustrations—each of which would normally be just a panel of a figure crammed into the corner of a page somewhere. I flipped and flipped and, to my surprise, the entire text was filled with these generously proportioned and very aesthetically pleasing diagrams. I kept flipping, mesmerized by the pleasant artwork, page after page after page, as one might expect from a book intended to spend its time on coffee tables. I have an awful lot of textbooks, and I don’t have anything else like this one. I’m confident you won’t either.
The text also is unique. Each chapter provides a succinct summary of relevant information, but with a clarity and practicality not seen in competing tomes. Moreover, the presented information is quite up to date. For instance, the chapter on chronic subdural hematomas mentions some of the new findings related to decadron use. Similarly, the chapter on traumatic neurovascular injuries nicely summarizes recent advances in conceptualizing and treating these injuries. Remarkably, the textbook even provides disclosure information for its numerous authors, which I applaud, even though it is provided as a requirement for offering continuing medical education to its readers, who can earn up to 15 American Medical Association Physician's Recognition Award Category 1 credits when reading this textbook.
When I worked up the strength to stop looking at the nice pictures I eventually found the table of contents. This 490-page book is divided into 6 sections:
* Cerebral Trauma and Stroke (10 Chapters)
* Spinal Emergency Procedures (11 Chapters)
* Non Traumatic Emergencies (4 Chapters)
* Emergency Operations in Combat (2 Chapters)
* Reconstructive Surgery (3 Chapters)
* Special Considerations in Pediatric Emergency Neurosurgery (2 Chapters)
This textbook will be valuable to any neurosurgeon or trainee who takes call, especially those who appreciate the art in what we do. Most of our specialty is represented amongst the pages, albeit from the standpoint of the sorts of problems that typically are seen when you are on call. Junior residents likely will find this a preferred comprehensive “how-to” guide to the procedures they will learn. Indeed, it even illustrates SjVO2 monitor placement.
I struggle to find shortcomings of this text, as it does what it sets out to do so well. This textbook does not endeavor to provide guidance for complex subspecialty procedures; it is devoid of anything related to functional neurosurgery, complex vascular procedures, or really anything that typically would be performed electively. I’d love to see the steps for a third ventriculostomy illustrated in the fashion typical of this book. I take solace, however, in the fantastic illustrations demonstrating the emergency surgical management of pituitary apoplexy. I will say that I found the illustrations of penetrating trauma a bit difficult to follow at several places in the textbook, as they include ghosted structures that are difficult to make sense of and that aren’t well described in the legends. In some cases, I think they depict hemostatic materials, and the ghosting allows visualization of what lies beneath them. This is a minor point.
Ultimately, I am in full agreement with Dr Narayan’s comments in the foreword—he expressed that his complementary words were unnecessary for a book that sells itself so well. Congratulations, Drs Ullman and Raksin, on your achievement.
The author has no personal, financial, or institutional interest in any of the drugs, materials, or devices described in this article.