By Dr. Joel Berman
I highly recommend Dr. Joel Berman’s Understanding Surgery for your home medical reference bookshelf! I was pleased to be asked to review the 2008 second printing of this major effort, and found that, just as the title says, it is A Comprehensive Guide for Every Family!
One thing I want to quickly point out. Although this book is geared toward Surgery; i.e., Dr. Berman provides complete information that is needed as you are considering surgery, I found that the book is so well presented and written that it is easily also a wonderful overall reference manual. For instance, if you have something that is bothering you in your chest, there is an extensive index that can be used to find different issues to review. Since there is no way to totally eliminate the use of hard-to-understand medical terms, Dr. Berman has included an extensive glossary that is written in easily understandable words.
I admit that I’m one ofthose individuals who is afraid to hear “the bad news” because I find it hard to understand and thus fear interactions with doctors and potential surgeons. However, right from the start of the book, Dr. Berman has taken the time to make readers feel more comfortable—he has written silly, funny, and sometimes outrageous limericks to start each conversation. Then he moves very professionally into describing exactly what is involved and what the patient and family needs to know as they explore the option for surgery.
The manual is divided into two parts. The second part is a single chapter on anything and everything that may be operable (and even a little about what is not). Dr. Berman moves from his own “general surgery” area, which includes such things as gall bladder, appendix, and transplants. Then he moves into areas for which specialists are normally sought, moving through various parts of the body from head to feet, (including plastic surgery) describing what may be problems, and then what can and would be done through surgery. Each narrative includes detailed diagrams of the affected body area, clearly marked for use in understanding the actual process.
While Part II will be the more important part of this reference manual on an ongoing basis, I found Part I to be very informative. Oftentimes, professionals, especially specialists, are brought in to handle a specific task, or surgery. While we, the patients are grateful, we have no idea what has actually taken place!
Dr. Berman, in Part I, has taken care of this problem! He begins with a brief history of surgery, education of the surgeon and then specialties that have been developed. He talks about the details that we, the patients, wouldn’t immediately think about if we were in pain, but that would be very important to us, if we weren’t seeing the individual for an immediate medical reason. The book includes what questions to explore with the surgeon(s).
Part I takes us into the surgeon’s office, into the operating room and/or an outpatient surgical center, as well as the emergency room. He ensures that we need to talk to our surgeon, consider second opinions, credentials, and qualifications of the individuals involved. Then the issues of postoperative care, complications, infections and antibiotics are covered.
The potential use of lasers or laparoscopy (a method of operating which uses only a few small openings into the abdomen) are, first, explained, and then reviewed as options. The importance of rehabilitation is covered thoroughly. Then more detailed information on problem areas, such as hemorrhage, the issue of diabetes and surgery and problems with wound healing, as well as the importance of anesthesia and the professional in that area are discussed.
In fact, as I reviewed the book, I could not think of anything that I could want to know that was not at least mentioned by Dr. Berman. And, if more information was suggested, then he also provided references, including his first book, Comprehensive Breast Care.
Unfortunately we oftentimes do not think about valuable health-care information until it is too late to spend time reading and learning what we want to know. For this reason, I consider this a must-read/home library requirement! Spend some time right now and prepare for responding to life-threatening issues!