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Crofton and Douglas's respiratory diseases, 5th edition

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    Crofton and Douglas's respiratory diseases, 5th edition. Edited by:a seaton, d seaton, a g leitch. (Pp 1696; £195.) 2000. Oxford: Blackwell. ISBN: 0 86542 8573.

    It is difficult to think that it is 30 years since the first edition of Respiratory medicine by Crofton and Douglas was published. It was the first comprehensive textbook of respiratory medicine in the United Kingdom and every respiratory physician had a well thumbed copy. The editorship moved to the present editors and the fifth edition has just been published in two volumes. The editors for the first time have invited some of their colleagues to write specific chapters.

    Crofton and Douglas has always been characterised by beautiful, lucid writing and this continues to be an outstanding feature, supported by many attractively presented figures, radiographs, and line drawings. Reading this book is a real pleasure. A second major strength is the very balanced perspective it provides. The authors are skilled at separating the genuinely important from more transient fashionable fads and the writing is proportional to the requirements of the reader and the importance of the topic. The book is clearly focused on the needs of patients and the need to prevent disease when possible. It includes some hard hitting comments on political issues such as the amoral cigarette industry and the way in which complacency in the treatment of tuberculosis has led to multidrug resistance.

    As with any good textbook there is something for everyone. Simple but important facts such as how to measure and interpret the response to a Heaf test are explained clearly and not assumed. On the other hand the book is an invaluable reference source. If you want to look up, as I did, the evidence for benefit from pneumococcal vaccination, there is an excellent state of the art review. Subjects such as air pollution that are particular interests of the authors are covered superbly as expected.

    Are there any deficiencies? Very few as far as I can see. As readers are particularly likely to turn to a textbook when faced with a patient with a rare disease I looked up two in particular and these were perhaps covered less well than the more common diseases. The section on Langerhans' cell histiocytosis made little of its very close association with smoking—an important point both for diagnosis and management, and the reader may well be confused, as I was, by the headings relating to lymphangioleiomyomatosis (and lymphangioleiomyoma). A new, long chapter on drugs in lung disease could be a useful resource, particularly for drugs that are used relatively infrequently. It may not, however, do justice to complicated problems such as the long term effects of inhaled corticosteroids, These are very small criticisms in a book which is masterly by any standard.

    To edit a comprehensive textbook that is also a pleasure to read requires knowledge, skill, experience, and wisdom. Respiratory medicine is extremely fortunate to have such an excellent book and our patients will be the beneficiaries. This book is an absolute necessity for anyone working in the area of respiratory medicine.Sadly, Leitch is not alive to enjoy the success of this edition.

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    Further information from: Agentura Carolina Ltd, Medichem 2001, PO Box 45, Albertov 7/3a, 128 01 Prague 2, Czech Republic. Telephone: 00420 2 2499 0811; Fax: 00420 2 2491 8681; email: carolina{at}carolina.czor