BSAVA Manual of Canine and Feline Surgical Principles: A Foundation Manual, Edited by Stephen Baines, Vicky Lipscomb and Tim Hutchinson, Published by the BSAVA, 2012, paperback, 312 pages, Price £75.00 (BSAVA Members £49.00), ISBN-13: 978 1 905319 25 1

Why does surgery fail or why do postoperative complications occur? Poor surgical technique is the obvious reason that comes immediately to mind. Certainly so; but what about lack of attention to or lack of knowledge of the peri- and intraoperative details and basic surgical principles? The co-editors of the BSAVA Manual of Canine and Feline Surgical Principles give these matters centre stage.

Looking at the book's structure, it is composed of 22 chapters that could be conglomerated into 3 main sections: the surgical facilities and ancillaries (theatres, sterilization, instruments, sutures), the preoperative considerations (stabilization, shock, sepsis, fluid therapy, assessment) and the postoperative considerations (skin healing, immediate postoperative care, infection, nutrition). There is a list of references and further reading at the end of each chapter. The information is delivered in the forms of text, a large number of tables, tips and colour photos.

When looking in more detail, the first section provides broad information on how to run efficiently a surgical theatre and most of the tables and bullet points can be simply copied and pasted into any practice's “good practice SOP” and implemented immediately.

Modern development in the field of surgical instruments (surgical staplers and lasers) is mentioned although the newest bipolar sealing devices or ultrasonic scalpels are not. The use of figures and photos in the chapters “Suture pattern and surgical knots”, “Principles of operative technique” and “Surgical instruments: Types and use” is simply unrivalled in a surgery textbook. A special mention should be given to the chapter on “Surgical Instruments: materials, manufacture and care” for the originality and depth of coverage of this topic, again unrivalled in a surgery textbook.

The chapters covering the “preoperative considerations” are understandably more theoretical but tips and bullets points render them quite easy to read. This section includes another very original chapter on “The immune and inflammatory response to anaesthesia and surgery”. In the last section (“postoperative considerations”), some of the latest issues in veterinary medicine such as “hospital acquired infections” are incorporated alongside with more “standard” chapters such as antimicrobial prophylaxis, haemostasis or principles and practices of analgesia.

The task that the co-editors have set themselves was extremely ambitious: elaborate a surgical textbook without any description of surgical technique, covering the widest range possible of peri- and intraoperative considerations and coordinating the input of 27 collaborators (all experienced veterinary surgeons, anaesthesiologists, internists, criticalists working in the USA, Australia, UK and other parts of Europe) covering 8 disciplines (Surgery, Intensive Care, Nutrition, Laser Surgery, Internal Medicine, Anesthesia and Analgesia, Dermatology).

The end result is a well-crafted, well-balanced, well-organized new surgery textbook; but unlike any other surgery textbook it is primarily focused on the perioperative considerations. Anybody who would want to gather at once the same amount of information spanning so many different topics would probably end up with 2 or 3 different books on their desk. The co-editors have created the environment to have all those topics covered in one book. It will therefore be a very useful addition to any library and a good source of information for veterinary students, surgical residents and general practitioners.

“Good surgeons are not those who are simply skilled at surgery”. This statement, made by the co-editors in the preface, speaks the truth. Surgery is a very demanding and very rewarding discipline that requires a lot more knowledge than just that concerning surgical procedures. This book is the vivid demonstration that surgeons can think “outside the (tool) box”.

Guillaume Chanoit

Guillaume is a Senior Lecturer in Small Animal Soft Tissue Surgery at the Bristol Veterinary School and member of the Bristol Heart Institute. He is the JSAP Associate Editor for Soft Tissue Surgery and is also a member of the examination committee of the European College of Veterinary Surgeons.