Reviews of Educational Material  |   October 2009
ICU Recall, 3rd Edition.
Author Notes
  • Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, Rochester, Minnesota.
Article Information
Reviews of Educational Material / Critical Care
Reviews of Educational Material   |   October 2009
ICU Recall, 3rd Edition.
Anesthesiology 10 2009, Vol.111, 928. doi:
Anesthesiology 10 2009, Vol.111, 928. doi:
ICU Recall, 3rd Edition.  Edited by Curtis G. Tribble, M.D., Charles E. Hobson, M.D., M.H.A., and Nelson L. Thaemert, M.D. Philadelphia, Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2008. Pages: 604. Price: $39.95.
Critical care medicine is challenging; patients are ill, emotions are intense, hours are long, and the clinical questions are difficult. Much of the learning is done at the bedside, and rarely is there time to sit down and read.
As a medical student, I remember evaluating my first postcardiac surgical patient—trying to figure out where the various lines, tubes, and pumps were leading, interpreting novel hemodynamic variables, feeling uneasy about the potential for an imminent cardiac arrest, and all the while receiving multiple requests to replace potassium. A busy intensive care unit (ICU) is frequently chaotic for young physicians. Efficiency and organization are essential to productive learning.
The third edition of ICU Recall  by Tribble et al.  is a concise study guide which is well organized and easy to read. The book is written in a question-and-answer format, totals 600 pages, and fits in your coat pocket. An electronic version for a personal digital assistant is also available. It is organized into four sections.
The initial section is an overview of various topics, including airway management, pharmacology, procedures, monitoring, imaging, and “the code.” This section helps demystify the aforementioned tubes and lines; where they are (hopefully) going, what the numbers coming from those lines mean, and what to do when a code occurs. Section II is divided into organ systems, with extensive discussion of the cardiovascular and respiratory systems. Section III covers systemic processes such as sepsis, fluids and electrolytes, and nutrition. The final section covers specific ICU populations such as burns, trauma, surgical subspecialties, and pediatrics. A bookmark is included that has a sample outline for an ICU progress note and can double as a cover for the answers as you read the questions.
The book is useful. It covers a wide range of topics, is well organized into largely self-contained chapters, uses basic illustrations effectively (including sample electrocardiograms and ventilator waveforms), and is portable. The questions are salient and written in a style reminiscent of questions posed on daily rounds. The answers are concise and in list or short paragraph form. The emphasis is on the cardiovascular and pulmonary systems, which are the cornerstones of critical care.
ICU Recall, 3rd Edition  is not a textbook. Although reasonably complete, certain topics are not emphasized or do not lend themselves to the format. For instance, delirium, which may affect a large portion of ICU patients and may increase morbidity and mortality, is not extensively discussed. Noninvasive mechanical ventilation is another topic which is mentioned briefly. However, its use is increasing and an expanded section including modes, settings, troubleshooting, and evidence-based indications would be useful.
Some readers may not enjoy the question-and-answer style in which the text is written. Pick up the book and spend a few minutes reading a chapter—you will quickly understand its organization and whether the style fits your needs. Finally, there are few references. Certain chapters (e.g.  , Nutrition) list and comment on evidence-based data, and I would have liked to have seen more in other chapters.
Overall, ICU Recall, 3rd Edition  is a remarkably thorough review book that is easy to read, covers a diversity of critical care topics, and is portable. It provides an opportunity for efficient learning while providing clinical care. It does not replace standard ICU textbooks, but I would recommend it as an additional source of quick information and review to any medical student or resident physician rotating through the ICU.
Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, Rochester, Minnesota.