cover image When the Air Hits Your Brain: Parables of Neurosurgery

When the Air Hits Your Brain: Parables of Neurosurgery

Frank T. Vertosick, JR.. W. W. Norton & Company, $23 (268pp) ISBN 978-0-393-03894-1

Instead of offering a collection of bizarre medical cases, brain surgeon Vertosick presents a set of harrowing clinical tales that highlight neurosurgery as risky, messy and often frustrating. The result is a riveting report that shatters the mystique of the brain surgeon as a wizard of technical prowess. Many of the patients profiled here die-an outcome not representative of neurosurgery at large, the author reassures us. The cases are drawn from Vertosick's six years of internship and residency. Among the most memorable are Andy, a Down's syndrome sufferer with multiple head and neck abnormalities who chose euthanasia over a life imprisoned in bed. We also meet Sarah, a pregnant homemaker with a malignant brain tumor who refuses radiotherapy and a therapeutic abortion. Vertosick is associate chief of neurosurgery at Western Pennsylvania Hospital in Pittsburgh. (Feb.)