Anesthesiology Board Review, 2nd ed.
Robertson KM, Lubarsky DA, Ranasinghe S, eds. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2006. ISBN 0-07-146412-3. 431 pages, $59.95.
With the ABA written examination looming in the not too distant future, many residents, this reviewer included, may struggle to determine the best approach to Board preparation. There is no shortage of resources and a great variety of formats for different learning styles. Anesthesiology Board Review is another addition to a large collection of Board preparation texts. The editors, however, intend to provide a novel approach to the standard question-and-answer review book. Their purpose is to create a book for the final push of Board studying. With this in mind, they have collected hundreds of questions from institutions around the nation. Only the correct answers are provided. No distracters, no K type questions. As the editors state in the introduction, “right before the exam…it's time to focus on correct answers.”
For the most part, and given the stated purpose of the review book, this approach works well. The questions are organized into 42 topic chapters: Acid Base, Fluids and Electrolytes, Anesthesia Risks, Chronic Pain Management, etc. Most of the questions are straightforward and the answers tend to be appropriately brief. Almost all of the major topics one would expect to find on the written board exam are included in the book's 400+ pages. There are several especially useful chapters, including Endocrine, Obstetrics, Orthopedic Surgery, Respiratory Physiology & Anesthesia, Thoracic Surgery, and Chronic Pain Management. Orthopedic Surgery, for instance, includes several excellent questions based on clinical scenarios, with succinct and relevant answers that are particularly helpful for the review of regional anesthesia.
There are a few areas in which future editions could improve. The editing, at times, is uneven. Occasional typographic errors are distracting to the reader and potentially life-threatening. The infusion dose for isoproterenol, for example, is given as 2–10 mg/min not mcg/min. Some of the chapters would benefit from editing to improve the flow of questions and eliminate unnecessary repetition. The Acid Base, Fluids, and Electrolytes chapter was a bit frustrating to read. It includes two essentially identical questions on the clinical manifestations on hypernatremia. More important to the Board candidate, there are inconsistencies. For example, regarding the effects of thiazides and furosemide on acid base status, one answer correctly describes the potential for a metabolic alkalosis (p.13) yet another answer a few pages later states that these drugs can cause a metabolic acidosis (p.15). With questions coming from so many different contributors, it is easy to imagine the challenge of editing, but relatively small changes would be helpful to the reader. It would also be useful to the reader if each topic chapter included its own bibliography. In the current format, there is an exhaustive bibliography at the book's conclusion, but it is not organized by topic and therefore not especially useful when looking for a quick way to find additional information on a topic. Lastly, for the visual learner, there are no graphics, charts, tables, or figures to assist with quick review.
These concerns aside, Anesthesiology Board Review largely delivers on its promise to provide a helpful review in the final weeks leading up to the ABA Board exam. Finally, although the book is clearly tailored to the ABA exam, the approach and content will likely be useful to trainees preparing for certification exams in other countries.
Matthew Aldrich, MD
Department of Anesthesia and Perioperative Care
University of California-San Francisco
San Francisco, CA