Australian Family Physician
Australian Family Physician


Volume 45, Issue 7, July 2016

Book review

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John Murtagh’s general practice companion handbook 6th edition

John Murtagh
North Ryde, NSW: McGraw Hill Education, 2015
ISBN 9781743763131

The sixth edition of John Murtagh’s general practice companion handbook is a useful pocket reference for general practitioners. This edition contains laboratory guidelines, a list of abbreviations and an A–Z of general practice conditions. The handbook would easily fit into a clinical/suit coat pocket or handbag, or sit on the desk as a quick reference.

The back cover suggests that the handbook is targeted at the ‘medical student or an experienced professional, a rural or urban practitioner, a clinician or researcher’. John Murtagh’s general practice companion handbook would be ideally suited to registrars in general practice as well as being suitable for students wanting to learn more about general practice, as an adjunct to standard major reference books in general practice and clinical medicine.

The concise A–Z style means the handbook is consistent in presentation and easy to read. The conditions, ranging from abdominal pain to zoonoses, are highlighted at the top of the page, making it easy for the reader to find the condition they are looking for. The list of conditions is comprehensive, ranging from the more common general practice conditions through to emerging infectious diseases and travel-related diseases. The section on travel medicine provides a useful overview of travel-related illnesses and tropical diseases. Readers should not expect to find detailed information, but the handbook does serve as a handy reference, and the tables, lists and figures would be very useful as a desktop reference or as a portable reference for doctors on the go.

As with Murtagh’s general practice, this companion handbook takes a diagnostic approach by addressing common symptoms and then presenting a systematic review of the physical examination, causes and management. The information for each condition is not detailed but is useful for quickly looking up symptoms and their causes, and to review treatment strategies. The laboratory reference values and diagnostic guidelines are listed at the front of the book and the appendices contain reference material such as the dermatome, and visual acuity charts, BMI ready reckoners, school exclusion periods for infectious diseases and the mini mental state examination.

This handbook would be particularly helpful for general practitioners wanting a pocket-sized reference to place in their doctor’s bag or on their desk for easy reference when seeing patients. It would also be a valuable reference for doctors studying for the Fellowship examination, particularly when starting out to create a study plan. In short, this handbook provides a valuable addition to the John Murtagh series of books about general practice.

Kaye Atkinson
Regional Training Coordinator,
Victorian Metropolitan Alliance, Hawthorn, Vic;
Chair, RACGP Expert Committee –
Pre Fellowship Education, East Melbourne, Vic

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