R. Dunstan, editor. Sydney: McGraw-Hill; 2001.
Price $32.95 + $6.60 postage. ( 20% discount for Australian Prescriber readers)

'Abnormal laboratory results' is an established series in Australian Prescriber. It provides medical practitioners with current information on the role and implications of commonly ordered tests. These invaluable articles have now been re-evaluated and skilfully edited into a concise compilation.

This conveniently sized manual addresses a deceptively broad range of laboratory tests. Topics include routinely ordered assays such as thyroid function and electrolytes as well as more specialised investigations for hepatitis B and C viruses, autoimmune diseases, and Helicobacter pylori. In addition, the first three chapters provide sound advice about general interpretation of abnormal laboratory results, giving perspective to the notion of 'normality'.

With regard to the relative merit of the articles I shall keep my opinions brief, as all have been previously scrutinized by a far greater arbiter, namely the Australian Prescriber readership. This pre-publication validation is a great strength of this compilation, and should reassure potential purchasers.

Some limitations include repetition of information, particularly in the chapters 'Plasma creatinine' and 'Creatinine clearance and the assessment of renal function'. I also found the synopsis, included at the start of many chapters, of little value. Some articles briefly outline therapy, under the heading 'What action is needed if the result is abnormal?' Given the limited space, this is achieved with varying success. For example, in the chapter about potassium there is no reference to the use of intravenous calcium salts, for cardio-protection, or to glucose and insulin therapy for hyperkalaemia. These minor issues are, perhaps, inherent to the book's construction.

This compilation is an excellent guide to understanding the increasingly complicated array of laboratory tests. It is readily digestible yet sufficiently detailed to prove useful to medical students, hospital clinicians, and general practitioners.