By: 19 December 2013
Landmark Papers in Anaesthesia

This issue’s review was kindly written by Dr David Melia, ST5 Anaesthesia & ICM, Bart’s and The London School of Anaesthesia.

Landmark Papers in Anaesthesia consists of 19 chapters concerning the scientific studies that have shaped the landscape of our practice. These are divided into clinical sub-specialty chapters such as ‘thoracic anaesthesia’ and ‘local anaesthesia’, more pharmacologically orientated chapters such as ‘total intravenous anaesthesia’ or ‘inhaled and intravenous anaesthetics’, and equipment-focused chapters such as ‘monitoring’. The editors have invited noted experts in each field to select the 10 most seminal papers that they feel have moulded, not only their personal sub-specialist practice, but the practice of anaesthesia globally – a “Desert Island Discs” of each string of anaesthesia.

Each chapter contains an introduction, which summarises the development of that particular field, the specific challenges and advances made, and sets the scene for the papers that will be advocated.

Every paper is concisely referenced and appraised. The abstracts and summaries are followed by the paper’s citation count, and any related references for further reading. Finally, the key message, strengths and weaknesses of the particular study, and its relevance to the practice of anaesthesia today are emphasised.

What results is a weighty hard-back, containing critiques of 190 papers relating to anaesthesia. Some are from a different era. For example, Bier’s original foray into spinal anaesthesia, re-published in Anaesthesiology 100 years on in 1989. Some are as recent as 2011. All are relevant though.

Most readers will question the logic of certain selections, and query why others were overlooked, but this is the true value of this text – it challenges you.

A nice touch is the appendix, which contains easily interpreted tables describing the 25 most cited articles ever published in each of the British Journal of Anaesthesia, Anesthesia and Analgesia, Anesthesiology, and Anaesthesia, for further investigation if desired.

Where this book sits is neither as a basic text for the aspiring novice, nor a ‘must-have’ script for the Final FRCA. It sits, in my opinion, most squarely on the coffee table. That said, it is certainly an interesting read for anaesthetists of all grades and disciplines. Those with a love of history will really appreciate its breadth and depth.  ■