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Book and Media Reviews
November 7, 2007

Differential Diagnosis in Internal Medicine: From Symptom to Diagnosis

Author Affiliations

Book and Media Reviews Section Editor: John L. Zeller, MD, PhD, Contributing Editor.

JAMA. 2007;298(17):2070-2075. doi:10.1001/jama.298.17.2072

As the 20th-century English author Gilbert Keith Chesterton insightfully noted, “The simplification of anything is always sensational.” Seekers of clinical information, while eschewing superficiality, often prefer simplicity over complexity. Walter Siegenthaler's Differential Diagnosis in Internal Medicine: From Symptom to Diagnosis is an easy-to-use, unpretentious reference that aspires to be both comprehensive and simple. Considered a classic textbook in Europe (currently in its 19th German edition, though this is the first English version), it uses a practical approach to internal medicine. The book tackles the vast and overwhelming volume of information that is internal medicine in a way that mimics the clinical process, ie, beginning with the patient's complaint or abnormal test result. It then creates a framework in which the clinician can generate a differential diagnosis. Since its focus is on aiding the clinician in observing, examining, testing, and diagnosing the patient, it can therefore be a more useful resource in general practice than more theoretical textbooks. In fact, the first 3 chapters of the book are devoted to establishing a methodology by which a clinician can begin to formulate a differential diagnosis. It emphasizes basic history, physical diagnosis, laboratory testing, and the understanding of evidence-based medicine in order to establish a differential diagnosis. These basics may seem rudimentary for the seasoned clinician. However, even the most skilled and experienced practitioner can benefit by this step-by-step approach.

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