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Edited by Christopher H Hawkes (Pp 176, £16.99). Published by Butterworth-Heinemann, Woburn, 2002. ISBN 0-7506- 7287-0.
Despite the fact that problems with tasting and smelling are common in the general population, few physicians have the knowledge and training to authoritatively deal with them. Christopher Hawke’s Smell and Taste Complaints provides a straightforward guide to the understanding and management of chemosensory disturbances, reflecting the first clinically oriented book of its kind since Ellis Douek’s The Sense of Smell and its Abnormalities (Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone, 1974). This 180 page pocket sized book provides a cogent overview of the anatomy and physiology of the olfactory and gustatory systems, practical approaches towards their assessment, and suggestions for therapy and management. Importantly, it provides the practitioner with the names and addresses of specialised taste and smell clinics throughout the world, aiding the referral process. Although there is little new in this guide, and much of the material seems to have been derived from second hand sources, it presents the available information in a well organised and easy to read manner. Moreover, it addresses basic clinical issues rarely addressed in a single publication. Its major drawback is the lack of reference backing for many of its statements, some of which are questionable. I found, for example, some of the “facts” unfamiliar, and would have welcomed knowledge of their source. Bits of the material are dated (for example, the role of IP3 receptors in olfactory function, the nature of olfactory receptor cell regeneration) and several sections of the book seem lengthy, uncritical, and of little practical value. Thus, nearly seven pages are devoted to the topic of odour memory, a topic with inherent theoretical issues and problems that are not addressed by the author. However, the book is not intended to be a research book and, despite such shortcomings, it accomplishes its goal of educating the practitioner and providing him or her with a practical roadmap for clinical assessment and treatment. Indeed, the clinical information provided is comprehensive and well illustrated. This inexpensive book is a must for any physician who has the occasion to see patients with chemosensory disturbances or has even a casual interest in chemosensation, and should serve to elevate the level of appreciation of these senses within the medical community at large.
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