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Interpretation of Pulmonary Function Tests: A Practical Guide.

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Interpretation of Pulmonary Function Tests: A Practical Guide. Hyatt RE, Scanlon PD, Nakamura M. (Pp 212; £30.50). USA: Lippincott-Raven, 1997. ISBN 0 316 26261 7.

It is the authors’ stated aim to produce a concise and practical guide to the interpretation of pulmonary function tests. As learning to interpret pulmonary function tests often appears daunting to both medical and technical trainees, such a book would be a useful addition to the literature on the subject. The sleeve notes say this book is “the only practical guide to the optimal clinical use of pulmonary function tests”. I had therefore been expecting a different format from standard texts, but 10 of the 15 chapters are still descriptions of the various tests and how they change in disease. The last four chapters are of a more practical nature, describing changes in lung function in disease including a useful section on which tests are likely to be most helpful in various clinical settings, although there is no mention of AIDS or haematological problems. Chapter 14 comprises a step by step approach to the interpretation of pulmonary function tests; although it gives the correct interpretation to the tests, it covers eight pages of text and figures and is rather difficult to use—perhaps the data could have been incorporated into a flow diagram.

A practical guide to interpreting pulmonary function tests that is easy to read and understand would be very useful; however, this book illustrates that it is difficult to achieve this concisely and still provide an understanding of the physiology involved. The authors suggest that structured approaches to the interpretation of pulmonary function tests have limitations in describing a “gestalt” approach, looking at the spirometric results and using the lung volumes and gas transfer to categorise the anomaly fully. Such methods are used by most experienced reporters of pulmonary function tests, and this method of looking at the whole picture explains why humans are still better than computers at reporting pulmonary function tests.

This is not a bad book and, for anyone wanting an entry level guide to pulmonary function tests, it does make the basic points clearly. However, I feel the reader would soon require a more comprehensive text or an additional volume on physiology.

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