Mark de Souza, General Practitioner, Adamstown, NSW

Firstly, the format in a small soft cover book is useful. It doesn't fit into any pocket that I have, but is easy to toss into a briefcase or the back of the car. It is the sort of book that one might refer to at the time of a difficult problem, but it is also useful to read when one can snatch a few minutes.

The book begins in a similar format to other guidelines with a chapter devoted to 'Getting to know your gastrointestinal drugs'. This is often a good starting place and worth a read. It serves as a good summary for points to remember when prescribing these medications.

The most useful aspects for general practice seem to be the topics on the more nebulous aspects of medicine. I found it useful to peruse the chapters on 'Oral disorders', 'Common disorders of vitamin and mineral metabolism', 'Constipation', 'Diarrhoea', 'Irritable bowel syndrome' and 'Perianal disorders'.

There are several good tables such as Table 12 which shows the recommended daily intakes for various vitamins. You can compare these recommendations with the contents of the common vitamin preparations listed in the table.

Other tables of interest included the comparison table for commonly used laxatives, lactose content of infant formulae and milk products as well as a comparison table for infant rehydration formula.

At the end of the book, there is a section about gastrointestinal drugs in pregnancy and breastfeeding. While I suspect that many of my colleagues would now find this information on a computer, it is useful to know that it can be found here too. There is also a handy list of support groups for the case manager in us; very useful when accreditation comes around.

The other chapters read more like a textbook, but give comprehensive coverage of gastrointestinal issues. These include topics like oesophageal disorders, peptic ulcers, pancreatic disorders, hepatitis, liver disorders, small bowel disorders and inflammatory bowel disease. There is a good summary on how to manage enteral nutrition and stomas, although I find it rare if the patient or their carer does not know more about the problem than I do.