Thursday, December 27, 2007
Complications - A Surgeon's notes on an imperfect science - Dr. Atul Gawande
For the common man, medicine is as magical as wizardry and a doctor with a stethescope or a scalpel is seen as a wizard with a magic wand. Dr. Atul Gawande in his book, Complications, has tried to demystify medicine and surgery for you and me. The imperfectness, the procedures and other details that go on behind the blue curtains are illustrated with examples from Dr. Gawande's experience making this book a medical thriller from cover to cover. The depth of detail the author delves into is absolutely fantastic. At the same time, it is very easy to comprehend as the author doesn't use any fancy medical jargon. A National Book Award finalist, Complications was recommended to me by a colleague of mine.
In the first part of the book, the author deals with errors in the field of medicine and surgery. Good medical practices in hospitals, the use of computers to diagnose diseases, M&M (Morbidity and Mortality) conferences and retirement policies for doctors are discussed with insight into the pros and cons of these processes to reduce mortality and errors during treatment. Trade offs in using interns/residents to perform procedures are discussed in depth as well.
In the second part of the book, the author goes into the mysteries of medicine and other intriguing surgical procedures. The topics dealt in this part of the book include gastric bypass for obese patients, clipping of nerves radiating from the spine to stop blushing among blushers and a deep dive into nausea among patients.
The final part of the book is titled Uncertainty and this part deals with issues like autopsies and their usefulness, patient consent and the degree of patient freedom in making their medical choices. The book ends with "The case of the red leg", which shows us that our bodies are in equilibrium on a needle tip and a very small thing like a rash could make a case for an amputation.
Overall, it's an exciting book and I would recommend it to medical and non-medical professionals. The imperfectness of medicine has left an uneasy feeling in me and has perhaps made me a little paranoid, but it has definitely given me a different perspective into the world of medicine.