Book review – Making sense of the ECG: cases for self-assessment

Br J Cardiol 2010;17:46 Leave a comment
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A wealth of ECG textbooks exist but this pocketbook tackles ECGs with a remarkably practical approach while still providing essential knowledge. The entire book reads in landscape and each of the 70 cases begins with a two-page spread of a 12-lead ECG or rhythm strip followed by the patient’s history, examination and investigations. The subsequent questions not only relate to what the ECG shows, but to mechanisms, causes and management. Fortunately, questions are limited to four per case so as not to overwhelm the reader.

book2Editors: Houghton A, Gray D
Publisher: Hodder Arnold, London, 2009
ISBN: 9780340946893
Price: £18.99

All is made clear on the next two-page spread in the book. A comprehensive table encompassing rate, rhythm, axis, p waves, PR interval, QRS duration, T waves and QTc interval for each ECG is a great way to polish one’s systematic ECG interpretation. The answers provided are concise and written in a conversational style as if hearing a response from a post-take ward round. A more complete discussion follows in the commentary presented as conversational but, at times, bulky bullet points. This is mainly to revise concepts brought out from the case. Should new material be presented, the authors cleverly cross-reference pages from their companion text Making sense of the ECG, third edition. One drawback is that the key messages are somewhat lost in the text and may have been better highlighted in
a box.

Although the cases are placed randomly, an ample index allows this to act as a reference text of ECGs. Basic information is also provided on other aspects of cardiology, ranging from acute coronary syndromes and precordial thumps to reveal devices. It does not, however, list
the normal values for ECG parameters, which would have been a valuable addition.

I would highly recommend this book to medical students, junior doctors and nurses. The mixture of ECGs keeps motivation high and the excellent layout allows for ‘dipping in and out’ if time is limited. The information presented is relevant to everyday clinical practice and creates connections throughout cardiology making this a useful and interactive revision text. It is an ECG book that combines basic principles with a logical approach to clinical scenarios yet is packed with facts, is easy to read and comes in a practical size. The reader
is left with confidence and enthusiasm to maintain their ECG interpreting skills.