Description: Physical diagnosis is a vast field, complicated by eponyms and changing concepts of what physical signs mean, and this book brings a different perspective than the usual dictionary-type texts. As the author states, it is presented in the Socratic, namely question and answer, format that makes a reader think while reading. The first edition was published in 2000.
Purpose: Although the second edition is a refinement and rewrite, the purpose is still the same as the first edition, to teach physical diagnosis and to put the information in somewhat of a historical perspective. The objectives are very thoughtful, to help readers understand how concepts developed, and how the current evidence-based approach does not readily lend itself to what we know about symptoms and physical signs. The author does a remarkably good job with this distinction.
Audience: This is appropriate for medical students, residents, and attending physicians. However, with the added perspective of the historical information, I suspect it will be more appreciated by students of physical diagnosis and medical history than by those interested in mere facts. The author is well versed in his subject and clearly enjoys his specialty.
Features: The book is divided in the traditional sense, by organ systems. The question and answer format does gives the reader a unique experience. The author offers an electronic version included in the purchase price with the illustrations and text. It was my hope that the electronic version would have color pictures where appropriate, but it did not and the illustrations are the only deficiency. The addition of the historical perspective ("Who was...?") is a tremendous feature, and makes the book well worth the price. The numerous tables are extremely helpful.
Assessment: This is a great book, making one think and entertaining at the same time, which is hard for a relatively dry subject such as physical diagnosis. It is one of the more "fun" books to read. This is a worthy addition to one's reference library as it includes aspects not found in most other books on the subject. It includes the references that are appropriate and reasonably current, in a field where there is not much written. And, because it includes nuances that are usually not included in other standard books, it will help make a good clinician a great diagnostician/clinician.