Melbourne: Therapeutic Guidelines Limited; 2007.
285 pages. Price $39, students $30, plus postage

Simon Vanlint, Assistant Dean (students) and Lecturer, Discipline of General Practice, University of Adelaide

Version 5 updates the previous version of this therapeutic guideline, published in 2002. Its stated aim is 'to provide clear, practical, authoritative and succinct therapeutic information for busy health practitioners'. Although it is not explicitly stated, the target audience appears to be students, junior doctors (including specialist trainees) and general practitioners. In the subject area of analgesia, successive versions have seen an increase in detail about the theoretical and pathophysiological considerations which underpin clinical practice, reflecting the considerable growth in knowledge since the first version appeared in 1988.

The book discusses the mechanisms and pathophysiology of pain, followed by both general and specific information about pharmacology. Non-pharmacological methods are also covered in some detail. Guidelines are provided for assessing pain (including pain in children), managing chronic pain and for a range of specific clinical situations. Despite its compact size, the book is very comprehensive and covers a wide range of situations where pain will need to be assessed and managed. Although much will be very familiar to experienced practitioners, there is still value in reviewing basic knowledge, especially when that knowledge has been added to in the recent past. This book would be invaluable for students and junior doctors, and is likely to be helpful for rural practitioners, given the very wide range of clinical scenarios that they will encounter. It will also be helpful for those who find that the management of chronic pain is becoming more prominent in their day-to-day practice. In short, a useful update of a trusted tool.