Surgical Book Reviews

Below are a few books recommended by members of the society. If there is surgical text which you would recommend please send a review to

Surgical Recall (5th Ed.) – L H Blackbourne

ISBN: 9780781770767


A reference on surgical clerkships, it enables quick study in a Q&A format. It can be used as a quick review prior to surgical rounds as well as for board review. It is intended for third and fourth year medical students.


Surgical Recall is the perfect pocket guide for any medical student or indeed house officer on a surgical rotation.

The quick flowing layout of these chapters may not be to everyone’s taste, but the concise Q&A format enables this small book to cover a surprisingly vast amount of knowledge. The chapters cover anatomy, pathology, epidemiology, surgical procedures and specific surgical diseases in a very concise, punchy manner, answering questions that are specific and right to the point. These mimic typical questions asked in surgery but also potential MCQ/EMQ/SBA type questions.

The book lends itself brilliantly to last minute reading before scrubbing in on an operation and indeed exam revision when you don’t have time to read a surgical tome.

Surgical Recall is divided in three main sections. Section One covers the basics of a surgical rotation, including writing surgical notes, abbreviations and basic surgical techniques, which are not usually found in our standard surgical textbooks. It also covers the general care of the surgical inpatient, which is handy for any surgical house officer. Section Two covers general surgery in detail, whilst Section Three covers other surgical subspecialties in a similar fashion.

The great thing about Surgical Recall is its presentation. Despite its small size, the layout is such that you are not overwhelmed by pages of thick text. It is well spaced and includes diagrams of surgical anatomy, techniques and instruments.

For those who are partial to prose, this may not be a favourite choice. Furthermore, being an American book, certain acronyms and note taking principles do not apply to us here in the UK. However, overall, it is an excellent revision tool and a great adjunct to your surgical preparation, whether you are considering a career in surgery or not.

SO – MBBS Year 5

Advanced Surgical Recall (3rd Ed.) – L H Blackbourne

ISBN: 9780781770682


Provides a review for the ABSITE and oral board exams in surgery. This book is in question-and-answer format and contains illustrations of anatomic landmarks and surgical techniques. It has seven Microvignettes chapters that test recall via sample cases and these includes: Clinical, Surgical Pathognomonic, Complications, Blood, and more.


Building on the global success of ‘Surgical Recall’, Advanced Surgical Recall is aimed at students and doctors who have an adequate grounding in surgery, and either want a competitive edge or intend to become surgeons.

Unlike an orthodox academic surgical textbook, ASR is written in a rapid-fire question and answer format, with key illustrations and diagrams where appropriate. The book, despite its formidable content, is easy to approach. As well as covering background surgical information, practical skills and all the major surgical specialities, it includes many clinical microvignettes and other learning tools.

The format lends itself perfectly to revision before surgically oriented examinations, although it is perhaps best used in conjunction with a larger surgical textbook. Whilst some of the knowledge imparted in ASR is beyond basic undergraduate teaching, medics at all levels are encouraged to utilize its ‘rapid-review’ attitude, especially if they are accustomed to using flash-cards.

As well as including anatomical and physiological topics, ASR has questions that one might be asked in surgery, and even devotes a chapter to surgical instrumentation. To reiterate, for a student interested in a career in surgery, or qualified doctors who are preparing for post-graduate surgical certification, Advanced Surgical Recall comes highly recommended.

KL – MBBS Year 4

Anatomy Recall (2nd Ed) – J. Antevil, L. Blackbourne, C. Moore

ISBN: 9780781798853


Part of the Recall series, this work reviews the fundamentals of human anatomy. It utilizes a two-column, question-and-answer format that facilitates quick learning of human anatomic facts through repetition. It also highlights the most important anatomic principles, which are complemented by anatomic correlations to clinical problems.


Anatomy is integral to being a successful medical student and is frequently tested by the bedside and in the operating theatre. Having solid anatomy will quickly differentiate the excellent medical student from the mediocre and is therefore worth learning well.

Lippincott have released the second edition of ‘anatomy recall’ which is authored by two general surgeons and an emergency medicine physician. The American authors have aimed the text at those sitting the USMLE exams/those doing surgical junior jobs and it covers the core anatomy in a question-answer format.

There are simple figures and line drawings to supplement the text and each chapter concludes with a ‘power review’ which covers the most important and frequently tested facts in each subject area.

The text covers all major regions of human anatomy including embryology. A particularly useful chapter is the ‘surgical anatomy pearls’ which provides a rapid review of the clinically important anatomy in each of the surgical specialties – ideal to read before walking into a consultant led operating theatre!

Anatomy is an exciting and demanding course within undergraduate medicine. Anatomy Recall is a comprehensive yet readable revision book which clearly emphasises (and re-emphasises) key points and common exam questions. Thoroughly recommended.

RC – MBBS Year 3

Core Clinical Skills for OSCEs in Surgery – Ged Byrne

ISBN: 9780443071867


Intended to help you learn how best to approach a clinical problem from a surgical perspective, this text provides an insight into how a surgeon might manage a particular problem and consequently how to prepare for an OSCE that might entirely (or in part) consist of surgical OSCE stations.


Glossary – This book is split into 7 main sections by type of skill. In addition there is an separate index for the OSCE Stations included in these sections, that is segmented by Physiological System i.e. CV, Respiratory, GI, GU, Neurology, Haematological, Locomotor and General. This is a useful addition as it facilitates the use of the book for building of the skill set required for the OSCE’s, as well as for focused revision of particular stations that may come up.

Content – The stated aim of this book is to be complementary to ‘Core Clinical Skills in Medicine’. As one would expect it is focused particularly on the surgical specialties, and although it does include OSCE stations it does not claim to cover all the stations that can arise. Rather it aims to cover the broad principles of examination technique that are required to comfortably pass a surgical OSCE. The layout for each station is very similar to that used for ‘OSCEs in Medicine’ with a star used to indicate complexity (Basic, Intermediate, Advanced). Each section includes appropriate exam advice, strategies for answering questions and suitable answers. The book is illustrated with appropriate line drawings and radiological photographs.

Ease of use – Each chapter is laid out in a logical and clear way. The layout of the book means that a student can read it cover to cover or just dip in an out of particular sections. This latter approach is facilitated by the index which allows them to identify a particular station by either its system or the skill that it tests.

Best Features – Each Chapter starts with a example history / examination and then gives comments on what the student did well, what they did badly and suggestions for further practice. This is an great feature is it gives practical advice on how the student can improve their performance, and also gives the student something against which they can compare their own approach to the station.

Favourite Chapter– The OSCE section is particularly useful as it explains to the student what a typical OSCE will be comprised of, the way they are marked, as well as tips for how to prepare for the big day!


Clinical Cases and OSCEs in Surgery – Manoj Ramachandran & Adam Poole

ISBN: 9780443070440


Designed for candidates appearing for the MRCS clinical section, and undergraduate clinical exams in surgery. The 133 cases in this book are framed to allow interpretation for short cases and OSCEs. In each case, an example of the opening instruction is given, followed by a discussion of the steps required to complete the examination and to pass.


This excellent and comprehensive book of surgical OSCE stations is designed for both candidates sitting the MRCS clinical section and undergraduates surgical OSCEs. It is not a substitute for a surgical textbook as the focus is purely from an examination viewpoint – explaining how the examinations are structured and what is expected. The book is helpfully divided into four sections covering superficial lesions, abdomen & trunk, musculoskeletal & neurology and circulation & lymphatic systems and each section is clearly organised and well indexed making it very simple to use.

For each case/station and example of station instructions is given, followed by a concise, clearly laid out sequence of steps required to successfully complete the station. Key points, likely questions and possible further questions are highlighted as well as sources of further reading. Important factual information about conditions is given and illustrations are provided where the authors consider it necessary to show anatomy, disease processes etc. Although personally I would prefer a greater number of illustrations, some photographs of conditions and a bit more colour than the black/grey/white colour scheme provides, I find the overall layout very easy to read or scan through and the key points are very conspicuous. I also find the fact that all stations have a rating according to the authors’ opinion of how likely the condition is to appear in an exam setting useful, although this should be taken with a pinch of salt.

Overall, as a tool for passing surgical OSCEs/clinical exams I rate this book as very useful, however, this is not a substitute for a surgical textbook.

J K – MBBS Year 4

Other recommended books:

– Surgical Talk, Goldberg and Stansby

– Davidson’s Principles and Practice of Surgery, Garden et al.