WHAT DOES THAT DO? by Laurence J. Street


Medical technology explained for patients and visitors.
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A thorough guide to the medical devices likely to be encountered at most academic hospitals.

Street’s stated aim is “to take some of the mystery out of the equipment you will see, and hopefully enable you to feel a little more comfortable and a little more involved in your own care.” He achieves his first aim with his descriptions, each consisting of an overview, the device’s function and medical application, lists of its other names and related devices and where the equipment is likely to be found in the hospital. Whether these descriptions make you more comfortable and more involved in your own care is less certain. He employs two devices that may confound more than comfort. First, he organizes the book by hospital department rather than by device application or function. While this may prove helpful if you are visiting a Canadian academic hospital, it may provide false confidence if you end up in an American general hospital (or even an American tertiary care hospital). Second, he uses clinical vignettes to add humanity to an otherwise cold-steel narrative, briefly highlighting a typical patient interaction with the medical equipment but not providing detailed treatment information. Sometimes quite useful information about the device (for example, the noise of an MRI) appears only in the vignette, whereas information important to the patient (for example, how claustrophobic many CT/MRI scans are) is never mentioned. Illustrations pepper the pages, but they are often irrelevant or superfluous, and there is an entire appendix with black-and-white anatomical drawings that bear labels but no descriptive information. There are appendices that explain the organizational structure of a hospital (but omit such common positions as hospitalist and physician assistant) and provide selected “normal” lab and vital sign values, and there is a simplistic, virtually useless appendix on ECG measurements and arrhythmias. Street’s guide is a useful reference but not for cover-to-cover reading; its sterile narrative and necessarily repetitive structure will put to sleep all but the most devout techies. For everyone else, there is a comprehensive index that sends you right to the page featuring the equipment you want to read about.

Though its presentation could be more engaging, the book provides thorough descriptions of a wide range of medical equipment and will likely help readers feel more comfortable about visiting a friend or family member in the ICU.


Pub Date: June 15th, 2011
ISBN: 978-0987703705
Page count: 434pp
Publisher: Kangal
Program: Kirkus Indie
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