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WAO Medical Book Review

Bronchial Asthma: A Guide for Practical Understanding and Treatment
Edited by: M Eric Gershwin, MD and Timothy E Albertson, MD, MPH, PhD.
ISBN: 1-58829-604-0

List price: $125.00 USD (hardcover and eBook)
$99.50 USD (paperback)
Available from: Humana Press

Dr David C Sutherland, FRACP
Nineways Specialist Clinic, Broadmeadow, NSW, Australia

This is the 5th edition of a comprehensive guide to the diagnosis and management of bronchial asthma. Previous editions have been well reviewed in the medical press. The current edition provides an update of recent developments and relatively new drug therapy, along with a greater use of tables and charts, which are deemed to make the book more "user friendly". The coverage of the topic is encyclopaedic, with each chapter, and indeed sections within chapters, written so that they will stand alone. This is both the strength and the weakness of this volume.

The textbook is designed to provide rapid access to practical information regarding the diagnosis and management of bronchial asthma, gleaned from an enormous number of scientific studies and reviews, published over the last thirty years.

This volume is designed to provide practical information for generalists, and for specialists other than chest physicians and allergists/immunologists, as at least all clinicians will be required to manage this common condition, as part of the total care of their patients.

The scope of the book is very comprehensive, ranging from basic immunology and pulmonary physiology, through management issues and specific clinical problems, to lifestyle issues. The format of the book allows rapid access to information, through the use of “key points”, numerous tables and figures, and summaries. Most of the chapters provide comprehensive, and up-to-date lists of references.

This volume succeeds in its aim of providing practical, readily accessible, information about the diagnosis and management of bronchial asthma for those without a specialist interest in the area. However, this format means that the volume is not designed to be read from cover to cover, and even within single chapters, there is a great deal of repetition. This format does allow for the inclusion of a great deal of detailed information which may be of interest to individual clinicians, or perhaps relevant to the management of specific patients, but not necessarily of interest to the general reader. Much of the information (for example epidemiology, drug information, health delivery issues and the management of asthma in "minorities") is directed to the North American audience, and has less relevance to clinicians elsewhere.

Overall, this is a very useful resource text, and should be included in all institutional libraries. The ease of access to detailed information will make it an attractive resource for undergraduate and postgraduate students outside of the areas of respiratory medicine and allergy/immunology.