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The editors of this book have assembled a distinguished group of (almost entirely North American) experts, to produce a well organised and elegant account of acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS).
Their aim is to cover all aspects of this challenging critical care problem, for an audience including students, doctors in training, critical care specialists, physicians and surgeons. They have succeeded in this, so that there is something for everyone; and very few of their readers will come away without learning something new.
In the editors' own introduction, the chapters are briefly and accurately summarised, without listing objectives or keywords and phrases which might be expected in a textbook.
It works better as an academic review than as a clinical handbook. It is certainly comprehensive, and in particular has chapters on lung pathology, pathophysiology, clinical management, complications, infection, recovery, and outcome, which are accurate and excellent. Here, the authors (including the editors themselves) have concentrated on the specific matter in hand. For example, the discussions of artificial ventilation (and weaning therefrom) are apposite and clear. Where the attention changes to more general aspects of critical care, the context of the book does not allow the authors to be either as didactic or as discursive as in other works. For instance, the discussions on management of sepsis and general trauma, although appropriate to the authors' aims, will add little to many readers' own knowledge.
As in any book with multiple authors, there is inevitably some duplication and repetition—for instance on the subjects of artificial airways, gastric tonometry, and cytokines. However, although the emphasis may be different from the various authors, there is no contradiction or disagreement between them.
For examination purposes, the book would easily suit postgraduate study, although the student would be wise to select those aspects specific to their relevant curriculum. The book is well indexed, making this task straightforward. Also, each chapter has an extensive and fairly contemporary reference list.
The illustrations and tables are economic and clear; and they are well positioned in the text. The book is very nicely designed and laid out.
It is a pleasure to read this book; and as a summary of recent thinking in a complex field, it is good value for money.
It should be read soon, however, because in the world of critical care medicine, time is unforgiving.