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Over the last few years I have begun to question the purpose of traditional medical text books. Specialist texts covering defined clinical or research areas rapidly become outdated due to the pace of ongoing clinical and basic science research. Classic student/training textbooks are being replaced by alternative formats such as web-based interactive learning, CD-ROMs and dedicated updated websites. Certainly, when I want to find out up-to-date information I rarely reach for the thick tomes gathering dust on the top shelf, and am much more likely to exercise a mouse and keyboard. However, that does not mean there is no role for the written word in modern medicine, simply that text books need to have a defined purpose and an easy to access layout that encourages use.
This is clearly the case with Oxford Case Histories in Gastroenterology and Hepatology, a focused, easy-to-read and informative text. The light and portable book takes 50 real case histories and presents them in a concise way including appropriate investigations. It very much feels as if you are having the history presented to you by an excellent registrar on a post-take ward or outpatient clinic. These cases are followed by one or two specific questions that are subsequently answered in a few evidence-based pages that provide an up-to-date view at a specialist level, without getting lost in unnecessary detail. Finally, there is a brief bibliography for interested parties to research further. The cases span the entire gastroenterology curriculum from hepatology to inflammatory bowel disease. Some deal with the everyday problems we all see in clinic, others with more esoteric issues that one may see once in a life-time. The questions vary from appropriate management and investigation to dealing with some of the more complex patient-related issues that one might discuss in clinic.
This is not a traditional text book and is not intended to be a comprehensive source of all gastrointestinal knowledge. It is a fascinating insight into clinical gastroenterology, an excellent and enjoyable read and an education for all levels of gastroenterologists from ST1 to consultant. We know from personal experience that case-based learning is far more likely to be remembered than in-depth trawling of sterile details. The fact that each 3–4 page case is completely independent means that it is an excellent book to browse and dip into in the spare 10–15 min that occasionally occur each day. The symptom-based index at the back allows one to focus on particular areas and I am sure will enhance one’s own clinical practice as well as the training of others.
Competing interests None.
Provenance and peer review Commissioned; not externally peer reviewed.