Middleton B, Phillips J, Thomas R, Stacey S. Scion Publishing Ltd, 2012; ISBN 978 1 904842 98 9; £29.99 (∼ €35)
‘..if you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough..’ Albert Einstein
This quotation from the first page of this book probably hits the nail on the head for many a budding anaesthetist looking to scale the monumental task that is postgraduate anaesthetic examinations. This is likely truer for physics than any other topic – many do not even have the fundamental building blocks of knowledge to allow them to begin their ascent. This book sets to address that.
Physics in Anaesthesia is the first edition of a book aimed at those studying the science related to anaesthesia, with the UK Fellowship of the Royal College of Anaesthetists curriculum (including an online referenced index!) sculpting its style and content. The four authors have backgrounds in anaesthesia, biomedical engineering and perfusion. Their aim was to make a text that was ‘accessible and informative to the many who consider themselves nonphysicists’, and I think they have achieved it.
Recently, completing my examinations (and having used a multitude of resources to compile revision notes), I felt in a good position to judge the book. Its warm and familiar style of writing makes it accessible for all. Throughout each of the 29 chapters, there was a real feel that the authors knew what was needed of you. Goals could be found at the beginning of every chapter. Definitions were clear and simple. The text clearly described Scientific Principles and helped readers consolidate their knowledge through the use of Multiple Choice Questions (MCQs).
The chapters covered all essential topics, including areas such as statistics, trial design and electrical safety, which are often covered poorly by other texts. The detail was neither too elaborate nor superficial. Many of the questions I spent hours flicking through appendices in other books for were clearly answered here. Diagrams were simple, although occasionally irrelevant or not so clear. Equations were logically derived and explained. My only real gripe was whether the MCQs were ‘life’ like enough to real examination questions. However, it is not an examination MCQ book. The questions are there for consolidation, and this should not deter you. The only other improvement I thought could have been an essential equation list and a structure for answering viva questions – but you cannot have everything!
There is a nice feel to this book. It is as if someone has sat down and really thought about each chapter. It feels more like your clever friend than a textbook. Current curriculums have been considered, as have common themes and questions. I always think the acid test to such a book is to pick a topic you always found hard to conceptualise and read it. I was pleased with the result, as were the several colleagues I had read sections too.
In conclusion, although I have always believed that examination topics, with all randomness and occasional obscurity, can and never will be fully covered by a solo text, this book comes close. It is an excellent core text for anyone needing to learn physics in anaesthesia.
Dr Kristofor Inkpin
Specialist Trainee in Anaesthetics
Queen's Medical Centre
E-mail: [email protected]