Anesthesiology Keywords Review. Edited by Raj K. Modak, M.D. Philadelphia, Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2008. Pages: 576. Price: $99.00.
The work facing the authors of a board review book is challenging indeed. The vast breadth of knowledge comprising the field of anesthesiology must be covered in adequate depth, while simultaneously avoiding getting bogged down in unnecessary minutiae. Moreover, many such books have already been published—some admirably succeeding in their mission to concisely review the field, others doing so less successfully. The latter tomes generally fail either because of being too superficial in their coverage, or because of presenting material in levels of detail more suitable for a textbook.
The authors of the first edition of Anesthesiology Keywords Review , published by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, thus faced a difficult task: To successfully tread the line between conciseness and detail, while also somehow differentiating their text from the reviews already in existence. To this end, they take a somewhat different approach: The work is in large part written by residents of the editor’s home program, based on an internal project designed as a tool for resident education and examination review. Having recently graduated from a residency program that used similar resident-authored keyword reviews, the significant resident involvement in creating the material and the compilation of these efforts into a cohesive board review book is commendable.
From an organizational standpoint, each of the 316 keyword entries is based on the keyword feedback provided from the annual American Board of Anesthesiology-American Society of Anesthesiologists in-training examinations. An interesting and unique aspect of the book is the multiple indices the authors have developed. Three separate indices are arranged alphabetically by section (anatomy, anesthesia processes, cardiovascular, and so forth), by topic (airway, back pain, carbon monoxide, and so forth), and by rotation (cardiac, general, neuro, and so forth). These multiple groupings aid in classifying and organizing the wide array of material presented. However, the presence of multiple classifications of the same keyword, while understandable for the sake of completeness, makes the indices fairly lengthy and detracts somewhat from their usefulness. The physical layout of the book in a strictly alphabetical format, rather than according to one of these indices, also makes finding desired topics more difficult, as there is no corresponding alphabetical index.
The visual layout of the book is appealing and well designed. Each individual keyword is cross-referenced with the section index mentioned above. Another useful feature is the listing of key points at the beginning of each topic to help summarize the material. Most of the discussions strike a nice balance between conciseness and detail, although a few do contain superfluous information, such as the history of cocaine. Each keyword also contains suggested readings at the end if the reader desires further clarification on a particular topic, a nice supplement to the brief summaries presented. The majority of these references are to established anesthesia textbooks such as Miller,1Barash,2Stoelting,3and Morgan.4Graphs, tables, and drawings nicely complement the text when needed to further explain a point or topic.
In addition to the book itself, an interactive Web site has been developed for online use. The site contains the full contents of the book and is searchable. It is also indexed by section in the same manner as the hard copy. However, the organization of the index could be improved to increase its usability. For example, grouping all keywords for “Anesthesia Processes” under one heading rather than having them scattered throughout the index would both streamline the index and increase its usefulness.
A few other criticisms deserve mention. First, as stated in the book’s preface, some keywords are ambiguous, and divining the question writers’ intent can sometimes be difficult. As a result, some of the discussions presented here are quite vague. While this is true, and to some extent unavoidable, a few of the topics could probably have been more focused. Second, several of the discussions are repetitive or overlapping. While this does mirror the keyword feedback on which the reviews are based, condensing or combining such topics would help streamline the book and improve its usability. Finally, numerous spelling and grammatical errors are present throughout the book, to an extent that they become distracting at times. These errors also in some instances affect the factual accuracy of the book; for example, a discussion of closing capacity and functional residual capacity states that closing capacity is normally much less than functional residual capacity, but that functional residual capacity increases with age. Correction of these flaws would also improve the text.
Overall, Anesthesiology Keywords Review is a decent effort with a number of positive attributes. It takes a different approach than many existing board review texts by focusing on the keyword feedback obtained from in-service examinations. The multiple indices allow desired subjects to be looked up in several ways, and the content is well balanced to be concise yet adequately detailed. The key points and suggested readings for each topic allow either a quick scan of information or further investigation of a particular subject. Unfortunately, the errors mentioned above diminish the book’s usefulness. If these are addressed in future editions, it can become a more valuable resource for board review.
University of Kansas Medical Center, Kansas City, Kansas. firstname.lastname@example.org