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Sometimes in medicine the only way to know what is truly going on in a patient is to operate, to look inside with one's own eyes. This book is exploratory surgery on medicine itself, laying bare a science not in its idealized form but as it actually is—complicated, perplexing, and profoundly human. Atul Gawande offers an unflinching view from the scalpel's edge, where science is ambiguous, information is limited, the stakes are high, yet decisions must be made. He investigates such enduring mysteries as the nature of pain, the inability to cure nausea, even the little-understood biology of blushing. He explores how deadly mistakes happen, and why good doctors go bad. He also gives us privileged entry into the inspiring world of ambitious operations, remarkable experiments, and unexpected intuitions. And through it all, we find Gawande's deep concern with the actual experiences of patients and doctors as they negotiate the paradoxes and imperfections inherent in caring for human lives. At once unsentimental and humane, Complications is a new kind of medical writing, nuanced and lucid, unafraid to confront the conflicts and uncertainties that lie at the heart of modern medicine, yet always alive to the possibilities of wisdom in this extraordinary endeavor. From Complications: I had just finished examining someone in the ER when one of the physicians stopped me with yet another patient: twenty-three-year-old Eleanor Bratton had a red and swollen leg. "It's probably only a cellulitis" —a skin infection—"but it's bad," he said. He had prescribed intravenous antibiotics, but he wanted me to make sure there wasn't anything "surgical" going on. The patient looked fit and athletic. There did not seem anything seriously ill about her. I glanced at her chart—she had good vital signs, no fever, and no past medical problems. I asked Eleanor if she had had any pus or drainage from her leg. No. Any ulcers? No. A foul smell or blackening of her skin? No. I le
Finalist for the 2002 National Book Award, Nonfiction.
—Malcolm Gladwell, author of The Tipping Point
"Complications is a uniquely soulful book about the science of mending bodies."
—Adam Gopnik, author of From Paris to the Moon
When you are in the operating room for the first time and see the surgeon press his scalpel to someone's body, you either shudder in horror or gape in awe. I gaped. It wasn't the blood and guts that enthralled me. It was the idea that a mere person would ever have the confidence to wield that scalpel. I wondered how the surgeon knew that all the steps would go as planned, that bleeding would be controlled and organs would not be injured. He didn't, but still he cut.
Later, I was allowed to make an incision myself. The surgeon drew a six-inch dotted line across the patient's abdomen and then, to my surprise, had the nurse hand me the knife. It was, I remember, still warm. I put the blade to the skin and cut. The experience was odd and addictive, mixing exhilaration, anxiety, a righteous faith that operating was somehow beneficial, and the slightly nauseating discovery that it took more force than I realized. The moment made me want to be a surgeon — someone with the assurance to proceed as if cutting were routine.
|Education of a Knife||11|
|The Computer and the Hernia Factory||35|
|When Doctors Make Mistakes||47|
|Nine Thousand Surgeons||75|
|When Good Doctors Go Bad||88|
|Full Moon Friday the Thirteenth||109|
|The Pain Perplex||115|
|A Queasy Feeling||130|
|The Man Who Couldn't Stop Eating||162|
|The Dead Baby Mystery||202|
|Whose Body Is It, Anyway?||208|
|The Case of the Red Leg||228|
|Notes on Sources||253|
This is a great read from a very respected surgeon. As a physician myself, I've always enjoyed reading books by physicians. Dr. Gawande has emerged as quite possibly the most reasonable, insightful, and even poetic of all physician writers. This book is a great read for anyone interested in the ethics of being a surgeon. Dr. Gawande's other books are also interesting reads, especially for doctors.
Other books by surgeons I highly recommend are Dr. Anthony Youn's "In Stitches," which is his absolutely hilarious and heartwarming story of becoming a doctor, and "Hot Lights Cold Steel" by orthopedic surgeon Dr. Michael Collins. These are geared towards a general audience and very worthwhile reads.
3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 13, 2010
I loved this book. At times, it felt like I was reading an episode of my favorite T.V. program, Grey's Anatomy. I am not in the medical profession but Dr. Gawande writes so well that his explanations and storytelling are easy to read and follow.
3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
An inspirational book that is a must read. Insightful and original, Gawande depicts the reality of complex problems that arise in the medical profession.
2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 12, 2009
Although eager to learn something from this physician's account, I found I was willing to leave the book after 50 pages. I did not, I did read it entirely but it was a waste of time. Some physicians can write, some cannot. This is a "not".
2 out of 5 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 2, 2009
Posted December 27, 2009
Very good. Easy writing style, many new concepts, many chuckles also. Still biased as a surgeon, but tells many incidents from real life. Wish my doctor would read it.
1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 13, 2014
Atul Gawande is a great writer and some of his stories are really page-turners, especially the last one about the patient with flesh-eating bacteria. He brings to his readers an in-depth understanding of what surgical residents go through during their training. Anyone who has ever been or ever will be (that is all of us) a patient should read this book.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 6, 2013
What an incredible look into both the expertise and fallibility of surgeons. The larger application is that we all need to aspire to learn as much as possible about our own areas of interest or professional endeavors, but in the final analysis we must trust our intuition. While reading Dr. Ben Carson's "Gifted Hands," I notice how often he prays and actually senses or truly knows God's leading. With both authors, there is a keen awareness of human imperfection.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 20, 2012
Posted December 11, 2011
Posted August 27, 2011
Very good book. Not boring like some books in this genre can be. All of his books are good. I only posted 2 reviews thus far, in 9mo, this book is worth a positive review!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 2, 2011
Posted November 10, 2010
Atul Gawande's Complications, is a view on the less publicized uncertain half of the medical field. The half that attempts new surgeries and ideas most of which turn out to be failures rather than successes. And who better to test these new methods out on than the common patient who enters the hospital for an ordinary reason. Gawande, who is a doctor himself, discusses how this is helpful and hurtful to today's society and the overwhelming mystery that still surrounds medical science. He tries to get across the message that medicine and surgery is a necessary evil. We will never be able to improve unless we practice. The lives of some experiments are not as important as the many that could be saved in the future. He wants to get across the point that this is a harsh fact society needs to accept. I like the way he wrote the story giving examples of patients, then explaining the controversy that surrounds decisions and techniques that surgeons use. I like how he explains what really happens in the medical world. I dislike how the book rarely shows who Gawande is. By the end of the book you have no idea what he does for a living after residency or about his family or anything else. I think the story could have benefited from a personal touch. People should read this book because not only is it a good story, but it reveals many things about the medical field one would not expect. In this sense, readers can be informed when making their own medical decisions. I give the book an overall rating of 5 stars because it was informative and entertaining.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 4, 2010
I haven't finished this book yet and it is the greatest book. But then again I want to be a surgeon so that is an unfair advantage for liking this book. I probably would recommend this for someone that doesn't enjoy the anatomy of the human body... But is still best book ever!!! :)Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 9, 2010
Complications is an engaging informative book about Dr. Gawande's accounters with the medical system. He sheds light on many issues in medicine that most people probably aren't too familiar with. It's a great read for anyone who is interested in medicine or even interacts with the medical system in any way, which is pretty much all of us. I learned so much about what it's like to be a doctor and a patient from reading this book. I found the first section the most interesting as it is the most applicable to patients but the last two sections are also really engaging when Gawande discusses different interesting medical phenomena. Overall, I think this book is a must read for everyone!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 20, 2010
I Also Recommend:
I read Atul Gawande's Complications a while ago and greatly enjoyed it. Dr. Gawande is an amazing writer and creates a detail image of topics in the medical field. It is very apparent that Dr. Atul Gawande is very educated and has extensive knowledge in what he writes about. Complications has the information and knowledge of a well-written peer-reviewed journal article but a writing style that is easy for anybody to read. I find that the information that Dr. Atul Gawande discusses are important for everybody to be familiar with. As a health educator I find the topics very interesting. His other book, Better, is just as good. The topics are similar in nature and just as interesting. Very well written and I recommend Complications for people who liked Better and vice versa. I believe those who are interested in the medical field will benefit and be entertained by Complications.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 10, 2009
Posted November 15, 2009
T. his book was a true story about a surgeon in the making some of the detail was not needed. I feel unless you are in the medical profession you would not have liked this book it gets boring. I have read better books written by doctors about their practice.
0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 10, 2009
Posted June 18, 2009