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Handbook of Physiology, Section 2: The Cardiovascular System, Volume I: The Heart FREE TO VIEW

Matthew J. Campen, PhD
Chest. 2004;125(5):1968. doi:10.1378/chest.125.5.1968-a
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By Harry A. Fozzard, and R. John Solaro, eds. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2002; 822 pp; $195

When it comes to education in the physiologic sciences, many of us enjoyed the wisdom handed down from Arthur Guyton, or perhaps from one of several other general medical physiology texts. Such is the standard in most medical schools, and it is quite often the case in graduate schools. While these tomes provide invaluable information regarding systems physiology, they are often lacking in molecular and cell physiology. Thus, many of us escape formal education without a clue as to the meaning of a “calcium spark.” Moreover, in the decade or so it takes for many to complete medical training, residency, and subspecialty training, great advances in physiologic science will undoubtedly have occurred. Even those of us directly or peripherally involved in basic physiology struggle to stay current on novel or emerging concepts.

Fortunately, the American Physiologic Society has taken on the noble task of publishing compendious “handbooks” that provide a greater wealth of information than most students will ever have the opportunity to enjoy. One book of particular interest to the readers of CHEST is Handbook of Physiology, Section 2: The Cardiovascular System, Volume I: The Heart. This text provides detailed chapters that cover the contractile and conductive functions of the heart. The book begins with a wonderful anatomic chapter featuring a wide array of structural electron microscopic photographs of the cardiac muscle. This is followed by a chapter on myocardial growth, including mathematical methods and a great many figures describing myocyte density, volume, etc, throughout a life span and across gender. Thereafter begin the chapters on molecular physiology, with sections on caveolae and gap junctions, cardiac innervation, and excitation-contraction coupling. Midway through the text are sections on conduction, covering both dynamics of ion channels as well as the behavior of the wavefront through the myocardial tissue. Overall, the depth of information is impressive, yet well communicated and well illustrated.

The book is not without small drawbacks. For one, the text could easily have been formatted into sections and subsections. Though the chapters follow a reasonably logical order, the casual reader would certainly benefit from a more structured approach. Also, the chapters on pathophysiology are cursory, and the concluding chapter seems more like an introduction to a heart failure text. Since this is a physiology book, perhaps in-depth discussions of cardiovascular pathology would constitute “mission creep.” However, there is likely to be some disappointment in this regard for readers in the health professions. Lastly, one wonders what the definition of “handbook” should be; my feeling is that it should easily fit into one hand. At a comprehensive and hefty 822 pages, the American Physiologic Society handbook on cardiac physiology requires both hands and a large desk.




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