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ACLS Certification Program, vol 1, 3d ed.

I have always hated rote memorization. It is because of this that I approached my upcoming certification in advanced cardiac life support (ACLS) with some trepidation. Unquestionably, the American Heart Association (AHA) has done considerable good by establishing ACLS certification, but the process requires the memorization of minutia. Furthermore, the AHA recommendations change by the minute, seemingly without regard to science or sense.

The standard way to prepare for this certification process is to read the terminally boring AHA articles that have been collected and reprinted from The Journal of the American Medical Association. This can be painful, as these articles were written as reference sources, not as educational guides. Furthermore, theey lack figures and often fail to explain the reason for AHA proclamations.

As an alternative, ACLS Certification Preparation by Grauer and Cavallaro is wonderful. It begins with an outline and explanation of the key CPR algorithms. This is followed by several sections on arrhythmias. Even though I have been reading ECGs for 15 years, there was much to be learned and reviewed. The authors present ECGs in increasing complexity--some will challenge even the most experienced clinician. Working through these sections is great preparation for the arrythmia test that is required for ACLS certification. The book concludes with case studies that prepare the clinician for the Mega Code and discussions about ventilation and intravenous access.

In each section, figures are used to demonstrate important concepts. The information is presented in an easy-to-follow, highlighted outline format. The authors discuss those issues in which there have been changes in CPR recommendations (eg, the disuse of sodium bicarbonate, the new recommendations to be use magnesium sulfate in patients with ventricular fibrillation, and advice on high-dose epinephrine). Throughout the text there are practical hints that help to make sense of this complicated area of medicine.

The authors have also prepared a second volume that reviews current thinking about the treatment of acute myocardial infarction and special resuscitation situations, such as pediatric. This volume is not essential to review for completing the ACLS, but makes an excellent reference for the family medicine libary. For those who best learned anatomy in medical school by using flash cards, the authors have also prepared a set of 376 cards ($25.95) that contain information in a question-and-answer format about the ACLS algorithms and arrhythmias.

Grauer and Cavallaro have done for ACLS what Montessori has done for learning phonics. Theirs is a user-friendly format that succeeds in reducing one's apprehension both during the ACLS test and during the next code. (By the way, I passed.)

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Author:Fischer, Paul M.
Publication:Journal of Family Practice
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Nov 1, 1993
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