Reviews of Educational Material  |   May 1997
Essential Anaesthesia for Medical Students 
Author Notes
  • Associate Professor Emeritus of Anesthesia, Bowman Gray School of Medicine, Medical Center Boulevard, Winston-Salem, North Carolina 27157.
Article Information
Reviews of Educational Material
Reviews of Educational Material   |   May 1997
Essential Anaesthesia for Medical Students 
Anesthesiology 5 1997, Vol.86, 1220. doi:
Anesthesiology 5 1997, Vol.86, 1220. doi:
Essential Anaesthesia for Medical Students. By Mark Heining, David Bogod, and Alan Aitkenhead. Oxford University Press, 1996. Pages: 149. Price: $24.95.
Why can't textbooks be fun to read? A question often asked is now answered by Heining, Bogon, and Aitkenhead in Essential Anaesthesia For Medical Students. Their book is a brief, amusing, prose index to the specialty of anesthesia.
The authors stated goal in the preface is “to help undergraduate medical students during their attachment to the anaesthetic department.” They achieve this in 142 pages with 10 short chapters that can be covered even by a slow reader in 5.5 hours.
The book is divided into two parts. The first explains what the anesthesiologist does in the operating room, and the second describes what is done outside the operating room. Part one includes the usual general, local, and regional anesthesia information with additional coverage of anesthetic drugs, equipment, and monitoring procedures. Part two has good sections on preoperative evaluation, pain control, postoperative care, and resuscitation. All of these chapters are well indexed, follow a logical order, and are concise to a fault. The novice may find the mention of topics like Mendelson's syndrome, with no explanation of what the syndrome is, frustrating. Hopefully, self-directed learners will avail themselves of the end of chapter references or ask their teachers questions about the many unexplained items. Some translation from English into American may be necessary (e.g., drug names, kilo pascals, “nil by mouth,” and other phrases less familiar to colonials). The tables are especially informative and are placed close to their prose descriptions, thus avoiding much page turning. “Key Points” highlighted at the end of each chapter summarize nicely the important issues. Occasionally, captions under pictures could better coincide with the order of presentation in the prose. The photographs appear to have been done on a low budget, but they suffice to enhance the text and illustrate pertinent points. Unlike a US student-oriented anesthesia textbook of the 1970s, Essential Anaesthesia For Medical Students does not have photographs exhibiting “bare essentials” of attractive young models. This should make it a less controversial and more acceptable book.
Less acceptable though, were innuendoes in the first chapter, such as “protected from interference by the surgeon and his henchmen,” and “keeping the patient alive despite ….. the excesses of the surgeon.” Perhaps meant to be amusing, they are demeaning, set a poor example of professionalism, and contribute to tribal skirmishes between specialists. This was the only displeasing feature in an otherwise charming book.
Of US medical schools, only an enlightened 31 (25%) have required clerkships in anesthesiology. Others may offer elective experiences, and all would do well to consider this book as a syllabus for an anesthesia rotation. Not since Anaesthetics For Medical Students by Gordon Ostlere of “Doctor in the House” fame has such a readable text been offered to undergraduate students of anesthesia.
John D. Tolmie, M.D.
Associate Professor Emeritus of Anesthesia; Bowman Gray School of Medicine
Medical Center Boulevard; Winston-Salem, North Carolina 27157