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Emerg Med J. 2007 December; 24(12): 866–867.
PMCID: PMC2658378

Core topics in airway management

Reviewed by Neil Nichol

Edited by Ian Calder, Adrian Pearce. Cambridge University Press, 2005, £35 (hardback), ISBN 1-841-10158-3

There is a clear and increasing awareness of the importance of airway management for emergency medicine doctors. Does this book contribute to the knowledge base required to practise this skill in emergency medicine?

The editors and their 18 contributing authors are all consultant anaesthetists, and their book is not surprisingly targeted at the anaesthesia/intensive medicine section of the market, although emergency medicine is mentioned in the preface. Sadly this is the only time that emergency medicine is acknowledged. There are sections of generic value (for example, the anatomy and physiology chapters) which are well‐written, although the style could best be described as quirky—the anatomy chapter opens with “Fine lingerie itself is rather tedious: it is the context that makes it exciting”. From this intriguing start, this particular chapter gives an excellent (and entertaining) description of the functional anatomy involved. The remainder of the book, however, does not gel effectively, and rather than a cohesive textbook you get the impression of a series of somewhat unrelated essays—for example, the properties of six different types of laser tubes are detailed in one chapter, but there is no chapter on failed intubation.

There are many suggestions throughout the book which indicate that the individual authors are imparting valuable tricks of the trade, not to be found in more academic texts, and this is one of the book's strengths. From an emergency medicine point of view, however, a major deficit is that there is no section on decision making regarding the need to definitively manage an airway, which seems to me to be the most core topic of them all. The authors have also avoided a specific section on induction drugs and paralysing agents, although there are periodic references scattered throughout the text.

Illustrations are of varying quality; the colour photographs are generally very good, the line drawings are clear, but many of the black and white photographs are reduced to an excessively small size and it is difficult to make out the points they are intended to clarify. There are three photographs (and a biography) of Archie Brain, and with due regard to his achievements, I am not persuaded that this is necessary in a 209 page core topics book.

In short, although there are some good chapters in this book, there are “core topics” which are key to the emergency medicine doctor which are completely missing. I personally think the missing topics should also be key to anaesthetists—but I am not sure if I could get away with such an assertion. I'm afraid I would not recommend this book for emergency medicine doctors.


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