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Kirsner’s Inflammatory Bowel Disease, 6th edn
  1. D A van Heel

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Edited by R B Sartor, W Sandborn. Philadelphia: W B Saunders Co, 2003, £105.00, pp 768. ISBN 0721600018

This single volume comprehensive reference tome on inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is now in its sixth edition, having been regenerated five yearly for the past 30 years. Balfour Sartor and William Sandborn have extensively revised it, with a greater focus on basic science and translational areas. Indeed, the first third of the book covering basic science issues is exceptionally good, and would make a superb background primer for investigators setting out in the IBD research field. The clinical sections thoroughly cover the expected areas: diagnosis, including endoscopy, imaging and laboratory investigations; medical and surgical therapy; and complications/associated diseases. The medical therapy section is particularly strong, as one would hope given the authors are some of the leading study investigators, with first rate sections on somewhat neglected areas such as clinical trial design, clinical pharmacology, and pharmacoeconomics. There are numerous diagnostic and therapeutic algorithms throughout.

The entire book has a nice feel—very clear layout, compact text (and even more compact references), clear figures, and comprehensive tables. The latter often provide a rapid guide to the key studies—for example trials of nutritional therapy and strictureplasty in Crohn’s disease. Unfortunately, a few of the tables have been poorly edited, with unreferenced citations or poor layout, but these are the minority. There are also a few areas of overlap between chapters (50 in all)—for example, two chapters covering different aspects of the genetic advances in IBD pathogenesis. Use of colour is a little sparse; in a book of this cost I was disappointed to find some histology slides reproduced in black and white. Although the editors are proud of the short seven month final submission to publication timeline, this nevertheless means today’s purchaser of the book (perhaps having read this review) is getting a text written in mid-2003. I still like the book format however and find it quick and easy to use. To research a topic I would happily look first in Kirsner’s Inflammatory Bowel Disease and obtain more recent papers with a PubMed search. A personal copy is a luxury but the book would be a good buy for a department or institutional library.

How does it compare to the competition? To my surprise, an Amazon search generated a list of over a hundred books on inflammatory bowel disease. While most of these were monographs, or covering highly specific topics, there were several other comprehensive general IBD textbooks. Those with a recent edition (last three years) included hardbacks edited by Satsangi and Sutherland (Churchill Livingstone) and Cohen (Humana Press). The Satsangi and Sutherland text was described by a recent Gut reviewer as the “Ferrari” of IBD books (Gut 2004;53:1880) and has a predominantly European outlook. Sartor and Sandborn differs in its mainly North American viewpoint (three quarters of the 87 contributors) but the books have more similarities than differences, are both good, and which to buy comes down to a matter of personal preference. If pushed to choose, I would probably go for Sartor and Sandborn, based on the more attractive cover, easier to read text and tables, and lighter weight.