Understanding Anesthesia Equipment, 5th Edition.  By Jerry A. Dorsch, M.D., and Susan E. Dorsch, M.D. Philadelphia, Wolters Kluwer, Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2008. Pages: 1,036. Price: $159.00.

The first edition of Understanding Anesthesia Equipment  appeared in 1975 and contained 311 pages at a cost of $16.50. The cover of the first edition displayed a copper kettle vaporizer. A book review at the time stated that “This is a remarkably useful book.”1It would not be overstating the case that this textbook has, over time, helped to define the practice of anesthesiology. The initial edition of this textbook made it clear that the anesthesiologist was responsible for the equipment used in the care of patients. To the benefit of multiple generations of anesthesiologists, the authors have continued to write about anesthesia equipment for the past 37 yr.

Since 1975, equipment technology has escalated at an exponential rate, and the authors have kept up with all of these changes in an exemplary manner. They are to be commended for their hard work and their dedication to educating the anesthesia community regarding anesthesia equipment issues. The fifth edition of Understanding Anesthesia Equipment  is 1,036 pages long and has 968 illustrations and 34 chapters. It is a comprehensive reference book describing every category of the different types of equipment used in anesthesiology today.

Unlike most major textbooks, which have dozens of contributors, the fifth edition of this book has only two. This makes the writing style of the various chapters consistent, and there is no problem with overlapping text. On the other hand, no one can be expected to be an expert in all aspects of such an extensive field. This creates a bit of an uneven coverage. Because the subject matter is highly technical, the writing style is also technical, though not as dry as its reputation. Excellent black-and-white illustrations, photographs, diagrams, and drawings improve the book’s clarity and ease of understanding.

The fifth edition is organized into six main sections: gas supply and distribution systems, anesthesia machines and breathing systems, airway equipment, monitoring devices, equipment related to environmental situations, and equipment care. The chapter topics are well selected and consistent with the topics from previous editions. Each chapter is laid out using an orderly format. The beginning of each chapter has a detailed outline that acts as a table of contents.

Several new chapters have been added to the fifth edition. Chapter 3 describes suction equipment and techniques. Chapter 15 provides an excellent review on latex allergy. Chapter 20 has useful information on lung isolation devices. Emergency airway devices are described in detail in chapter 21. A precise description of the temperature control equipment is found in chapter 31. The increasingly important areas of prevention and controlling operating room fires are covered in chapter 32.

Several chapters have been expanded to keep up with advances in technology. For example, in the chapter on vaporizers, descriptions of new equipment have been added (e.g. , the Tec 7). The anesthesia ventilator chapter has been expanded to give a detailed description of different ventilators. Chapter 17 describes supraglottic airway devices. All of these new devices have a great impact on anesthesia practice. The Dorschs provide an excellent review of them and the indications for their use.

All of the chapters are very well referenced. In the past, some have said that the textbook is over-referenced, but I like the attention to detail. After the references, there are board-type questions (including the obsolete K-type format) at the end of each chapter for review, including the answers to all of the questions.2Another noteworthy feature found in this edition is instant access to an interactive Web site (www.understandinganesthesiaequipment.com) where there is a test bank with more than 500 multiple-choice questions with full answers.

Anesthesiologists use anesthesia equipment every day. Because of the standard set by the Dorschs, they are expected have an excellent working knowledge of this technology. Understanding Anesthesia Equipment , 5th Edition, is a well-written, well-organized, technical, up-to-date, comprehensive reference book that offers anesthesiologists and anesthesia technicians this important knowledge and insight. To quote the review from 1975, “This book should be in the hands of every practicing anesthetist.”1It is good to know some things have not changed.

*Yale University and Yale New Haven Hospital, New Haven, Connecticut.


Gordon RA: Book review: Understanding Anaesthesia Equipment: Construction, Care, and Complications. Can J Anesth 1975; 22:533
Hanning CD: Book review: Understanding Anesthesia Equipment. Br J Anaesth 1994; 84:427