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Edited by Rob Forsyth, Richard Newton. Published by Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2007, £34.95 (paperback), pp 448. ISBN 0-19-856939-4
Those saviours of junior doctors have come up with another handy pocket‐sized book (a handbag might be less cumbersome, ladies!). The makers of the “cheese and onion” (Oxford handbook of clinical medicine) and “ready salted” (Oxford handbook of clinical surgery) volumes have achieved the awesome task of condensing the super brainy neurologists' knowledge into 546 pages (it has taken 27 years since the medical handbook, but we'll accept this as a reflection of the complexity of the subject rather than its lack of importance in the eyes of the publishers). We're running out of crisp flavours now, so I suggest the “club med” as a suitable nickname (as the colours on the front cover bring to mind the sun, the sea and the sky). The book is small enough to sneakily read at the back of the x ray meeting and then wow the consultants with your knowledge of MERFF. The neuroanatomy pictures will also make you seem less of a fool when everyone is talking about the basal ganglia and you are helplessly wondering where you are supposed to be looking (shame you fell asleep when the neuroradiologist was giving the tutorial on imaging – they will insist on dimming the lights though). Even if all you do is read the first eight pages of abbreviations after the index, you will have managed to translate the neurology doublespeak and realise that MNGIE written in the notes is not casting aspersions on the patient's generosity. There are really useful sections on investigations to avoid having to ask (and embarrass your registrar who doesn't actually know!) what conditions that long list of investigations is actually looking for. The neurology examination would be really useful for the MRCPCH part 2 as well as helping the neurology trainee to brush up on their technique (I defy any non‐neurologist to remember the dermatomes more than 6 weeks after their exam!). The book then focuses on specific presenting complaints and their differential diagnoses and investigation. This is followed by specific conditions including an excellent section on epilepsy. For the registrar doing consultations in the tertiary setting, the book provides a double whammy giving background information on the conditions commonly referred (eg, HSP or SLE) plus the neurological complications to consider. The emergency section is particularly useful with easy to find pages highlighted in blue and clear treatment flow charts and drug doses for conditions such as status epilepticus or dystonicus. Finally, a chapter on medicines with doses, starting regimes, monitoring and side effects completes this handy book.
The book cover states that it is aimed at “general paediatricians, paediatric neurologists, neurodevelopmental paediatricians and those in training as well as specialist nurses”. It is unusual for a book to be able to appeal to both amateur and expert, but I think this book manages to pull it off. At £34.95 it will not break the bank (or the bookshelf) of the general consultant or community paediatrician who wants a quick ready reference to translate the letters from the neurologists or manage the child with epilepsy. Likewise, the consultant neurologist who has forgotten the gene for Rett syndrome will find it concise but crammed full of facts. Of course though, consultant neurologists are too clever to forget anything! Handy for reading on the train, however, and if you get bored you can look at the cover and plan your next holiday. Who knows, in years to come it may be incorporated into some neuropsychometric test “What does this book remind you of?”. The one criticism of the book is perhaps the limited information on developmental problems and the developmental exam. But perhaps this is a book in itself – choose the colours carefully though lads, we're running out of names!