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Martin R Cowie. (Pp 58; £9.95.) Bladon Medical Publishing, 2003. ISBN 1-904218-22-9.
Professor Cowie has written an authoritative, up-to-date, and relatively simple description of this medical condition and its management, and one that will undoubtedly be helpful for many patients to whom a diagnosis of “heart failure” has been given. Where, though, does Professor Cowie’s slim volume fit in? It seems to fit nicely between the brief “patient information leaflet” style of the various disease associations available free of charge, and the treatment of the subject within standard medical texts. I suppose that if the public demand is sufficient we could see a plethora of such small books covering the universe of man’s ailments, so colleagues should be weighing-up the potential in their own specialties for literary exploits!
Was the cover picture, with a golfer chipping his ball out of a bunker chosen as particularly inspirational or meaningful? The fact is that “sports” and “golf” don’t feature in the index, and the section on the general topic of staying active is disappointingly brief and bland. The chapter headings, by which the subject matter is broken down, are reasonable. The technical content seems mostly accurate. One slip-up is the assertion (on page 6) that “a central heating system has a boiler to keep pumping hot water round the system”. I was also surprised to find that the NYHA’s symptomatic classification was presented as “The New York Heart Association’s classification of heart failure”, so missing the chance to push home the message that it is a grading of symptoms and not of severity of the underlying pathology/damage. In the Appendix on Sources of Help and Information, a paragraph to describe what each organisation offers for heart failure patients would be good and would certainly help the patient puzzling over which of the 11 organisations listed might provide what he or she is seeking.
Was anything important missing? Three things come to mind. The first is a need to explain about the widely used terms “congestive heart failure” and “congestive cardiac failure”. The second is to suggest including a chapter on using the internet to get information on heart failure and its management, as many patients who take the trouble to read this sort of book will also seek information from websites. The third is that, as a non-medical family member pointed out, a few encouraging case histories would be appreciated by many readers.
Overall, this little book probably deserves about 8½ out of 10. It left me feeling that it was OK but not quite as good as it could be.