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BJS Bookshelf: Top Knife: The Art and Craft of Trauma Surgery.

Authors: Recommendation and Article by Teresa Perra and Alberto Porcu; Department of Medicine, Surgery and Pharmacy; University of Sassari; Italy; @TeresaPerra

“Don’t reflexively jump on a bleeding vessel with the first available clamp. Instead, train yourself to think of every bleeding situation as a problem that requires an effective solution. There is always more than one alternative. Your job is to come up with a solution that will work for the specific situation in front of you.” (Hirshberg A. and Mattox K.L., 2004, p. 20)

We would like to recommend this book, which is a must read for any surgeon.

The authors, Asher Hirshberg and Kenneth L. Mattox, are two trauma surgeons who are experts in the management of trauma victims. The book was edited by Mary K. Allen and illustrated by Scott Weldon. It is a practical guide to operative trauma surgery that teaches you how to think, plan, and improvise in an emergency setting.

The first part of the book presents some general principles of trauma surgery. The second part shows how to deal with specific injuries to the abdomen, chest, neck and peripheral vessels. The importance of damage control is highlighted throughout the book.

The book does not focus on preoperative and postoperative care or non-operative management of trauma patients. As the authors underline, it “begins and ends in the operating room.”

Why surgeons should read it:

To become a good surgeon, you need to increase your medical knowledge and learn surgical procedures. Learning how to think in an emergency setting is an important ability to develop.

This book is different from any other. It is not a standard surgical atlas or textbook, that would show you what to do with your hands, but not how to think. It is a well-written and easy-to-read practical guide, that provides practical advice on how to use your head as well as your hands during operative trauma surgery.

If you are looking for instructions on how to resect and join bowel or how to perform a standard vascular anastomosis, this is not the right book. You should read this book if you wish to learn how to do a crash laparotomy, deal with a bleeding lung, or repair an injured popliteal artery. The authors themselves suggest so.

The book is not specifically aimed at trauma surgeons, but at any surgeon or trainee with an interest in emergency surgery. It helps you to think of every operation as a sequence of well-defined steps and to learn the key manoeuvre as well as the pitfalls in every step. Practical tips are provided and key points are summarized at the end of each chapter.

This a book you can read in a day but one you would keep close at hand to refer to whenever you need to.


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