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Medscape General Medicine

Book Review
Epilepsy in Clinical Practice: A Case Study Approach

By Andrew N. Wilner, MD, FACP
Demos Medical Publishing
Copyright 2000
270 pages
ISBN 1-888799-34-X
$34.95 paperback

Reviewed by: Steven C. Schachter, MD

[MedGenMed, May 1, 2001. © Medscape, Inc.]

Accomplished medical teachers often bundle medical knowledge with interesting case studies. In Epilepsy in Clinical Practice: A Case Study Approach, Andrew Wilner, MD, FACP, has managed to adapt this traditionally oral teaching method to a book format. In doing so, he has created a distinctive learning experience for clinicians, which bridges the gap between textbooks and clinical practice by merging theoretical concepts with practical management decisions.

Both an epileptologist and skilled writer whose previous contributions have addressed other unmet educational needs, Wilner uses 12 case studies as a platform for updating the reader about the latest diagnostic and therapeutic advances in the field of epilepsy. The case studies pertain to the following central issues: the first seizure, intractable epilepsy, stopping antiepileptic medications, seizures and medications, epilepsy and pregnancy, rash, epilepsy and psychiatric disorders, epilepsy in the elderly, seizures and alcohol, generalized convulsive status epilepticus, nonepileptic seizures, and alternative therapy.

Each case is followed by a series of thought-provoking questions that often anticipate the questions the physician caring for the patient would ask or be puzzled by. Answers to each question are then provided and supported by data where appropriate. Detailed but succinct explanations based on Wilner's experience, on generally accepted practice, and on useful resources are provided after the case studies.

Primary care physicians as well as neurologists will be drawn to the cases because they frequently encounter patients with similar problems. Further, the questions and answers will help generalists understand the diagnostic and therapeutic challenges faced by specialists when treating patients with epilepsy and vice versa.

While the diagnostic evaluation and selection of therapy are emphasized, the individualized, empathetic approach that Wilner espouses and the level of detail in the case descriptions reinforce the importance of the history and a compassionate attitude.

A large number of helpful resources, 31 in all, follow the case studies. These include contact information for epilepsy organizations in the United States and abroad, a glossary, home safety checklist, and treatment protocol for generalized status epilepticus. These resources alone make a valuable contribution. A comprehensive index concludes the book.

Epilepsy in Clinical Practice: A Case Study Approach breaks ground with a unique approach to medical education and will likely be emulated in other therapeutic areas. It should not only be read by medicine and neurology residents, primary care physicians, emergency room physicians, nurses, and neurologists, but it should be consulted before turning to more traditional neurology and epilepsy textbooks because it will help the reader use didactic information more efficiently. It will assist medical educators, who will use these cases as teaching tools. Above all it will enable clinicians to more effectively care for their patients with epilepsy.

Steven C. Schachter, MD, is Vice President of the Harvard Clinical Research Institute and an Associate Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts.

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Column Index
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Critical Issues in the Use of Antiepileptic Drugs
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Conference Coverage - 54th Annual Meeting of American Epilepsy Society
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Epilepsy Diagnosis and Management Refined
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Med Students
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Family Medicine
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Internal Medicine
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Primary Care


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