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Gastroenterology Highlights 2001–2 is attractively presented in good quality four colour format. This slim volume of 84 pages comprises 10 chapters written by a panel of international experts. Topics covered range from diseases of the oesophagus, liver, pancreas, and small bowel, to complications of liver disease, endoscopy, and colorectal cancer prevention and screening. The aim is to discuss key papers and put them into context. In most chapters, about 20 papers are reviewed but the actual numbers range from 16 to 30. Most chapters also review one or two abstracts. The vast majority of papers covered were published in 2001 or 2000.
The Fast Fact Highlights series aims to “keep its readers abreast of the latest innovations” in each specialty. The flyer states that the information is presented “in an accessible style, comprehensively illustrated and fully indexed”. Have these aims been met? Certainly the style is easy to read. However, there are only three figures in the whole book. Two of these are world maps showing geographical variations in colorectal incidence and mortality, while a third figure is a rather pointless flow chart of “preventive steps” for patient groups at average, moderate, and high risk from colorectal cancer. The steps are identical for the first two groups: change in lifestyle, chemoprevention and screening, and early diagnosis. These steps are again repeated for the high risk group, with preventive surgery added. There is no subject index.
I like the table in each chapter stating what are “in”, what are “out”, what are contentious, and what are still needed. However, it is irritating that many of the items mentioned as “in” or “out” have neither been discussed in the text nor referenced.
In the discussion on endoscopic treatment of gastro-oesophageal reflux, the EndoCinch and implantation of microspheres were discussed, but not the Stretta procedure. Both Freedman’s study on the association between cholecystectomy and oesophageal adenocarcinoma as well as Schnell’s report on non-surgical management of Barrett’s oesophagus with high grade dysplasia, were reviewed in the oesophagus chapter and again in the chapter on gastrointestinal cancer. Tighter editing could have avoided this duplication as space in this book is clearly at a premium. I was surprised to read that “rectal examination as the only test for colorectal cancer” was “out”. This statement was not referenced!
These brief reviews cannot by their nature be comprehensive. While this volume covers more ground than the short literature review booklets sponsored and distributed free by pharmaceutical companies, only about 20 papers are reviewed per topic. This can only represent a small selection of the many advances over a one to two year period, and falls far short of the excellent reviews in the Current Opinions in Gastroenterology series. It is probably unsuitable for a library collection, and is not a book I would myself keep for reference. I am uncertain who may wish to purchase this volume, even though it is modestly priced at £15. While it is an easy read, I suspect that few consultant gastroenterologists would want to buy this book. I doubt if many trainees would either.