Oxford Desk Reference: Obstetrics and Gynaecology Editors Sabaratnam Arulkumaran, Lesley Regan, Aris T Papageorghiou, Ash Monga David IM Farquharson Oxford University Press, 2011 ISBN: 978-0199552214, Hardback, 744 pages, £60.00



As reference texts go, this is one that stands out and fills a gap amongst similar mainstream texts in obstetrics and gynaecology. It is comprehensive and covers all aspects of the field including subspecialist topics not generally covered by books in the same genre. It is not surprising that such a commendable work has come from the collaboration of five internationally acclaimed authorities in the field. With over 140 contributors to this first edition, from both sides of the Atlantic, the reader will be confident that they are reading up-to-date information with an international perspective, benchmarked against the latest evidence-based guidance and national standards provided by specialists with expertise in their particular areas.

The editorial premise is to enhance high-quality, safe and evidence-based practice in a pragmatic way with the provision of clinical knowledge covering the breadth and depth of the specialty with the aim of providing optimal care. This resource successfully achieves these aims in the present era of important advances in the field and good practice recommendations, from the RCOG and NICE amongst others, rapidly being introduced into clinical practice. This is in addition to challenges faced by trainees of time-restricted training and shortened exposure imposed by the European Working Time Directive. For established and practising clinicians it meets the continuing professional development requirements for revalidation.

The content is broad. It is a 725-page hardback with 15 main chapters covering 97 topics condensed into three sections. A non-conventional approach not common to most text is the arrangement of topics in alphabetical order akin to the ‘Yellow Pages’ telephone directory; thus making referencing easy. Part 1 is a four-chapter introductory section, which includes particularly useful coverage of legal implication of practice affecting various aspects of the specialty and is explicit in its description of the responsibilities of the clinician. Other topics in this section include: ‘basics of history taking and examination’ and ‘communication’ covering confidentiality, breaking bad news and obtaining consent.

Part 2 is a collection of seven chapters dedicated to obstetrics and includes ‘normal pregnancy’, ‘complications of early pregnancy’, ‘obstetric conditions and care in labour’, ‘care of the fetus’, ‘maternal medicine and infections’ and a chapter on ‘common obstetric techniques and procedures’. The chapter on care of the fetus incorporates an extensive coverage of various fetal abnormalities that are well illustrated by clear ultrasound images. Part 3 is devoted to gynaecology with four chapters comprising: ‘reproductive gynaecology’, ‘benign and urogynaecology’, ‘benign, premalignant and malignant tumours in gynaecology’ and ‘common gynaecological procedures and surgery’. Considering its length is a great book to dip into and, indeed meets the editors’ desire to be a dependable reference text.

One of the merits of this text is the style of writing. This is reflected in the structured and logical approach adhered to throughout the text despite numerous contributors. This makes for an easy and engaging read. The topics are short with succinct and complete details of definition, epidemiology, aetiology, diagnosis, and management as appropriate. All topics end with references for further reading which are extremely helpful in addition to relevant internet and patient information resources. Illustrations are clear and they adequately complement the text and provide better understanding of clinical applications. There is a separate collection of coloured clinical pictures, images and diagrams in the middle of the book, which might have been better placed with their respective topics. One of the minor flaws of this text is repetition across topics that are linked and a lack of consistency in units of measurements for investigations. This might be challenging to correct bearing in mind the vast contributorship.

Overall, this book is a key, comprehensive, well-written and clearly explained evidence-based resource. It provides junior doctors with the knowledge base needed for training in line with curriculum requirements and can be used as an aid for teaching medical students. It is also a valuable resource for senior clinicians to keep up to date.

Its easily accessible format allows for quick consultation in any area of the clinical setting and is highly recommended for all medical libraries.