Striking a balance between engineering and medicine

Writing a book on subjects that cross over physics and engineering and into medicine is an ambitious undertaking that has been attempted on few occasions with marginal success. It is nearly impossible to strike an appropriate balance between theoretical and practical, technical and medical aspects and make it interesting and useful to a varied readership. Lasers and Optical Fibers in Medicine by Abraham Katzir, a tireless promoter of close collaboration between scientists, engineers, and physici

Striking a balance between engineering and medicine

Lasers and Optical Fibers in Medicine Abraham Katzir, Academic Press, 1993, 317 pages, $89.

Writing a book on subjects that cross over physics and engineering and into medicine is an ambitious undertaking that has been attempted on few occasions with marginal success. It is nearly impossible to strike an appropriate balance between theoretical and practical, technical and medical aspects and make it interesting and useful to a varied readership. Lasers and Optical Fibers in Medicine by Abraham Katzir, a tireless promoter of close collaboration between scientists, engineers, and physicians, tries to fill this niche.

The book is timely because it deals with advanced and minimally invasive diagnostic and therapeutic aspects of lasers and fiberoptics in medicine. Unfortunately, as often happens with books on "hot" subjects, it becomes obsolete because of the development of new laser sources, computer-assisted surgery and visualization, and novel applications of current technology.

This book is written in a user-friendly style, and, according to the author, is intended "as a source for scientists, engineers, and physicians, and as a text" for medical students and students of biomedical engineering. Considering the broad spectrum of subjects discussed, it is surprisingly concise (fewer than 300 pages of text). Material in each chapter is presented on three levels, from basic to advanced. This organization may hel¥some readers to select an appropriate level of presentation, but other readers may find it confusing and irritating to see the same material repeated in different parts of the book.

Fundamentals of laser medicine stressed

Most of the areas of laser medicine and fiberoptics, in particular, are covered. Sometimes discussions of laser applications are taken out of context of conventional surgery and medicine and may appear to a novice reader as a breakthrough technical advancement rather than just a ste¥in the continuous improvement in technology. For a scholar in the field, the book offers little new information, but for engineers and physicists interested in applying their knowledge to the medical field, it contains volumes of information that can quickly familiarize them with the fundamentals of laser medicine and direct them toward more advanced and specialized studies.

I think readers with advanced technical backgrounds will find the applied medical material in Katzir`s book useful as a reference. As a textbook, because of its often schematic coverage, it should be supplemented by other sources.

Michail M. Pankratov

MICHAIL M. PANKRATOV is a consultant in medical optics and biomedical engineering in Waltham, MA 02154; e-mail: Michail@aol.com.

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