Creating a handbook for all of anesthesia is an undoubtedly daunting task. Cyprian Mendonca and Chandrashekar Vaidyanath should be congratulated for even attempting the feat with their Handbook of Anaesthesia & Peri-operative Medicine. On one hand, it would have to cover incredibly broad topics with enough detail to be useful to a student, resident, or practicing physician. This book does cover huge swaths of content, with seven major sections totaling 37 chapters covering applied science, perioperative medicine, airway management, specialty-specific procedures, perioperative emergencies, critical care medicine, and pain medicine. On the other hand, a handbook, by definition, should be small enough to fit in the hand, necessitating tight control of the content. The editors state in the preface that the target audience is senior medical students and foundation doctors, which helps to limit the scope of content that would be necessary to cover, and the editors have hit this mark well. The text is complete enough to get a working sense of anesthesia for the intern or early CA-1 resident. However, they state that the book will also be useful for anesthesia trainees and practicing anesthetists, with the caveat that it will need to be supplemented with material from articles and other texts for more detailed knowledge. This text falls short of the depth of knowledge needed to pass the American Board of Anesthesiology Basic or Advanced Exam, and would definitely need to be supplemented if being used to study for that purpose.
The chapters are named and organized in a straightforward manner (e.g., Chapter 1, Intravenous Agents; Chapter 2, Inhalational Agents), with the additional advantage of being color coded by section, and the color coding extending to the page edge, allowing the reader to find the intended section even when the book is closed. The book is very readable due to excellent editing. Authors include registrars, fellows, and consultants from across the United Kingdom, and yet, the book has a seamless feel to it. Chapters in each section have a recognizable format. For example, in Section 2, Peri-operative Medicine, each chapter or disease process is specifically broken out into preoperative, intraoperative, and postoperative considerations. Section 5, Peri-operative Emergencies, has each emergency addressed by causes, management, and prevention. The editors have done an excellent job of breaking out lists into bullet points to provide focus and enhance understanding and readability. Also contributing to its readability is the liberal use of well-designed tables and color figures that include graphs, flowcharts, and photographs of technical equipment. One of the highlights of this text are the case scenarios. Each chapter ends with one to three clinically correlated scenarios, along with questions and answers that add greatly to understanding the relevance of the covered topics for the reader. While most of the scenarios are straightforward with only one question and answer, others are quite complex with multiple questions and answers mimicking an oral board question (e.g., Chapter 12, Peri-operative Fluid Therapy).
Readers from the United States may find the use of English spelling conventions charming (e.g., hypovolaemia, oedema, fibre). While fully trained anesthesiologists will immediately recognize differences in care patterns between the countries, the target audience of trainees may need to exercise caution as they may not be aware of some less trivial differences. For example, Chapter 28, Obstetric Anaesthesia, refers to the use of pethidine, thiopentone, ergometrine, and carbetocin, none of which are available for use stateside.
One common way of shortening a text to create a handbook is by means of small font and margins, and very thin paper. This text does not succumb to those ploys. The font and spacing are very generous for easy readability, and the paper thick enough to feel substantial. As in all things, the good news is the bad news. The book is large enough that it could not fit in a scrub or lab coat pocket (in fact, it entirely filled this author’s purse), and it weighs in at three pounds, which seems to feel heavier as the day proceeds. The addition of an electronic version would be much appreciated, particularly by the Generation Z and Millennial readers that are the target audience.
Overall, the Handbook of Anaesthesia & Peri-operative Medicine is a very readable introduction to anesthesiology for anesthesia trainees, but unlikely to gain ground as a major training text in the United States when compared to other mainstay books.