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A Colour Handbook of Gastroenterology

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    A Colour Handbook of Gastroenterology. Edited by Hodgson HJF, Boulton R, Cousins C, et al. (Pp 208; illustrated; £29.95). London: Manson Publishing Ltd, 2000. ISBN 1 87454 555 3.

    To paraphrase Mark Twain, reports of the impending demise of the print media have been greatly exaggerated—a trainee can still spend hours browsing new editions in a medical bookshop and, usually during frantic preparation for higher exams while fulfilling DSM-IV criteria for anxiety disorder, part with large sums of money on illustrated texts. There also seems to have been a small explosion of abridged versions of textbooks and specialty handbooks, although some of these “handbooks” can weigh in at more than 500 pages, and entail some serious fitness training if carried around in a coat pocket.

    Almost qualifying for the cruiserweight division at just over 200 pages, A Colour Handbook of Gastroenterologyprovides a concise, richly illustrated summary of clinical gastroenterology. Apart from oesophageal varices and ascites, hepatological conditions are not included. The book contains about 90 subjects organised into 10 colour coded anatomical sections. Each section starts with a short discussion of the relevant anatomy and physiology, as well as techniques for imaging, and functional assessment. Most major areas of gastroenterology are covered, although the level of detail is sometimes a little uneven. For example, seven pages are devoted to vascular disorders of the small bowel and colon, but the less visually glamourous conditions of constipation and irritable bowel syndrome are relegated to a single page or less. The text on disease management is usually limited to a few lines on each subject, so that a trainee will still need to consult more detailed references when making treatment decisions. There is also a paucity of newer imaging techniques, including magnetic resonance imaging and endoscopic ultrasonography, two technologies that are beginning to revolutionise our approach to patients with suspected gastrointestinal disorders.

    Perhaps the main attraction of this book for the visually inclined, busy trainee is that the text is structured, succinct, and richly illustrated with over 300 high quality radiographs, colour photographs, and tables. Given the increasing availability of electronic textbooks and medical images, one wonders about the future of such handbooks—although, unlike any other medical text on my computer or bookshelf, it was certainly easy to read from cover to cover. The preface states that it is directed towards junior doctors who are preparing for higher qualifications in gastroenterology and general medicine, but it will also appeal to financially solvent medical students who are keen to learn more about gastroenterology.

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