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Complications: A Surgeon's Notes on an Imperfect Science
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Complications: A Surgeon's Notes on an Imperfect Science

4.22  ·  Rating Details  ·  24,081 Ratings  ·  1,783 Reviews
A brilliant and courageous doctor reveals, in gripping accounts of true cases, the power and limits of modern medicine.

Sometimes in medicine the only way to know what is truly going on in a patient is to operate, to look inside with one's own eyes. This audio is exploratory surgery on medicine itself, laying bare a science not in its idealized form but as it actually is --
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Audio CD, Abridged, 5 pages
Published April 5th 2003 by Macmillan Audio (first published 2002)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Patricia
Mar 11, 2012 Patricia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
A year or more ago, I mistakenly placed a review for Gawande's book Better under this title. I have fixed the mix up, and I have now read Complications.

Gawande is pure pleasure to read. His writing is fluid and full of germane examples as he addresses big issues like error and incompetence as well as topics that seem less significant but which he makes worthy of consideration such as blushing and nausea. The headings for each section of the book--Fallibility, Mystery, and Uncertainty--are themat
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Ben Pederson
Feb 04, 2008 Ben Pederson rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: have-read
This book wss filled with about 25 anecdotes flimsily tied together by Gawande's less than inspiring reflections. I have the book in front of me at the moment and I am paging through rereading sections that I noted along the way:

"I had come into residency to learn how to be a surgeon. I had thought that meant simply learning the repertoire of move and techniques involved in doing an operation or making a diagnosis. In fact, there was also the new and delicate matter of talking patients through t
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Elizabeth
Oct 24, 2007 Elizabeth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Complications is a book of anecdotes about a surgical resident’s experiences and impressions of the current health care environment. Gawande divides his stories into three sections: fallibility, mystery, and uncertainty. The fallibility section demonstrates that doctors can make mistakes. Some fallibility arises from there being a learning curve. For example, it is hard to do a central line correctly the first time. But for a doctor to learn how to do a central line, he must have a first patient ...more
Libby Ames
Apr 18, 2009 Libby Ames rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: contemporary
Although I am interested in the medical profession, motivation to learn more about it often elludes me. Gawande was able to keep my attention and present points that I could understand in spite of my limited medical knowledge.

Admittedly, some of his information scared me. After reading some points about surgery, I wondered how I ever allowed anyone to cut into me and place a plate and seven screws in my leg. Also, some of his writing made me squeemish. I had to pause or skip places that became t
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Jim
Oct 14, 2015 Jim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2non-fiction, 1audio
Not quite a 4 star read, but close enough. It's fairly short & does make his major points fairly well. They boil down to medicine isn't perfect.

Doctors are humans, so need to learn & will make mistakes, even with the best intentions. Do I want a doctor to learn on me or mine? Hell no! Gawande admits that he doesn't either & he makes sure they don't, BUT we won't get any new ones if they don't start somewhere. So what's the solution? There isn't a good one. Deal with it.

Patients are h
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Sue
Apr 15, 2009 Sue rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Atul Gawande writes for The New Yorker, and I always read his articles as soon as I spot the by-line. I read "Better" last year and think it is even, yes, better. But both books have rare qualities. Gawande is a physician who can step back from his ego and write with compassion and insight about the relationship between vulnerable sick people and those whose skill and judgment they are compelled to trust.
Linda
Read these sentences and tell me that this writer isn't an unbearable idiot:

"If choice [of one's surgeon] cannot go to everyone, maybe it is better when it is not allowed at all."

"Taking time to bond with patients is fine, but every X ray must be tracked down and every drug dose must be exactly right."

"Hospital lawyers warn doctors that, although they must, of course, tell patients about injuries that occur, they are never to intimate that they were at fault, lest the 'confession' wind up in co
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reabdimation
Hmmm... I love surgery, it means.. when a handy book of more-humanity-and-less-cut of surgery was published.. how can i resist?

Well.. for being honest, it makes me feel bored when i've red the middle-part. it turns 'in' again in a few last chapter. I agree to middle-rating, (in Indonesia means, lumayanlah.. bukan buku sampah) of this book. but i truly disagree when sumone gave only one star rating to this stuff. (Cari deh di tinjauan lain. Huh. You make me angry dude.. pelit amat sih. Gue nggak
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Lucy
Jul 26, 2007 Lucy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2007
this was a very interesting book. i liked his writing style, too. it was far more engaging than the stupid tree book. isn't this author bio a bit sickening, though? "atul gawande, a 2006 macarthur fellow, is a general surgeon at the brigham and women's hospital in boston, a staff writer for the new yorker, an assistant professor at harvard medical school, and a frequent contributor to the new england journal of medicine. gawande lives with his wife and three children in newton, massachusetts." t ...more
Katie
Aug 10, 2007 Katie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
An very well written book in which Gawande argues that surgery is an evolving and imperfect art. He begins by describing in compulsively readable detail some occasions during which it has failed its patients. An overarching theme in the book is an idea of what makes a good surgeon; Gawande points out that it's not about innate talent. It's about practice, commitment, a willingless to learn new things, a willingness to teach others, specialization, and perhaps attentiveness to the patient. (I als ...more
Sarah
Mar 03, 2012 Sarah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow! I loved this and I love Dr. Gawande.

The first section is about how it is necessary for medical residents to learn how to do procedures on people, but how it's just as necessary to sort of glide over that fact with patients. This was the most exciting part of the book because he went over his own early surgeries and the complications that arose.

The rest of the book is about how, even though medicine is a 'scientific' field, it's ultimately human and fallible. My anxiety was high during mos
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Book Concierge
Jan 22, 2016 Book Concierge rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: EVERYONE
This National Book Award finalist REALLY makes you think! It opens your eyes to the imperfections in our system of medical care.

Gawande is a surgical resident (when he wrote it), a thinker and a poet. He uses case histories to explore the thinking, the philosophy, of medicine. He speaks of mistakes and intuition, luck and skill, good outcomes despite bad treatement, and devastating outcomes despite excellent care. This should be required reading for all medical students and regularly re-read by
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Salvatore Daddario
Wow - this book was so great. I'm sad that it's over! It is basically a collection of stories as told by Dr. Gawande - stories that he has collected from his time in surgical residency. He discusses mistakes that doctors make in medicine, a collection of hard-to-solve cases, and medical uncertainty. This is among the first medical-related books that I have ever read, which helped to add to the intrigue and absolute fascination. Some of my favorite parts were his discussion on inexplicable chroni ...more
Cheryl
With honesty and humility Dr. Gawande provides the reader an insight into the practice of medicine. A general surgeon at Boston's Brigham & Women's Hospital, Dr. Gawande writes movingly about the challenges and uncertainties doctors face each day as they strive to provide the best treatment possible for their patients.

The book jacket aptly sums up this outstanding book, "In gripping accounts of true cases, surgeon Atul Gawande explores the power and limits of medicine... Complications lays b
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Cheryl
Jul 28, 2011 Cheryl rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great. Reminds me of why I wanted to do medicine.
Molly Cinderella
Aug 20, 2015 Molly Cinderella rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2015
I love vacations.
Vaidya
Dec 31, 2015 Vaidya rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
It was kind of unsettling reading stories of illnesses and the way doctors deal with them. The sheer fallibility of them, the different things that can go wrong, which aren't in anyone's control. Scary!

The main point Dr. Gawande wants to drive home is this - "Doctors are human. Any factors that affect success/failures of people in other professions, affect them also." And there are a myriad other things here, like how updated the doctor is, what stage of his career he is, if she's dealing with d
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Megan
Jul 14, 2010 Megan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recently I had to see a doctor for something that was bothering me. I went to my normal family physicians group, who referred me to a gastroenterologist, and eventually had to have a couple procedures in the hospital before I was offhandedly diagnosed with IBS. I say "offhandedly" because that's what it was: the gastroenterologist at first said I seemed to have had some kind of stomach bug that threw me out of whack, and then, when I asked further, finally said "Yeah, I think you have IBS." He d ...more
Jessika
Jun 20, 2011 Jessika rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This book only got three stars from me mostly because even though I enjoyed it as I was reading, I didn't love it as much as I thought I was going to.

I think the thing I liked the most about Complications was that it was really thought-provoking. Gawande does an excellent job at poking and prodding your mind to get you to think about the answers to questions that don't necessarily have a right or wrong answer. For as much as we all seem to think that medicine is this black and white area of lif
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Jessica
May 01, 2011 Jessica rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Complications deals with the mysteries and uncertanties of medicine, beginning with a reminder that doctors are (like the rest of us) fallible humans, and ones who often have to pretend they know more than they really do. He brings up difficult questions, like the quandary of giving a patient full disclosure ("Hi, I'm Dr. Gawande, and this is the first time I've ever performed this complicated surgery. But don't worry! The other doctor in the room has done it plenty of times and will be here to ...more
Christina
Aug 13, 2009 Christina rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book. The thesis is simple: Medicine is an incomplete, uncertain, mind-bogglingly complex science. But there's also a fair amount of "Doctors are people, too" and not in the "cut us some slack" sense, but in the "everybody makes mistakes" sense. If you have an infallible faith in doctors and medicine, read this book. If you think doctors are just regular Joes who don't know much more than the rest of us, read this book. If you're like me and you just like to read about medical stuff ...more
K
Apr 09, 2012 K rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A very worthwhile if somewhat demanding read about the often underestimated margin of error in medicine. Gawande's book describes understandable human error when split-second decisions need to be made, doctors who burn out with others (colleagues, supporting staff, patients, and most of all the doctors themselves) slow to realize it and failing to make the necessary changes, mysterious ailments like chronic back pain, nausea, and uncontrollable blushing with elusive (nonexistent?) physical cause ...more
Jamie Mealey
Nov 11, 2015 Jamie Mealey rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I absolutely loved this book. It is a book about medicine that reads quite like a thriller. Dr. Gawande writes about medicine in a poetic and insightful way, which is interesting because most books about science or medicine are written as strictly information. He provides the reader with a thorough understanding about what life as a surgical resident is like and also gives stories from his own experience with residency. The book highlights Dr. Gawande’s greatest achievements and also biggest mis ...more
Ben Gosnell
Feb 29, 2016 Ben Gosnell rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Do you have what it takes to perform tasks you have never completed before on a person whose life is at risk while working relentless hours? Complications is a book of anecdotes about Atul Gawande’s, a surgical resident, viewpoints and experiences regarded the current health care setting.

His stories include instances of fallibility, mystery, and uncertainty. The section about fallibility explains that doctors do make mistakes. The issue with the education of doctors comes when the doctor is ask
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Jennifer D
through anecdotes and examples of patient cases, gawande seems to be honestly writing about fallibility - in medicine, in doctors, in patients. i don't know, so much, that the science is imperfect, but people are imperfect. i like that gawande is putting this information out for public consumption. his writing is fairly simple and accessible. as with Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End, he touches on subjects that people either avoid discussing altogether, or are extremely uncomfo ...more
Kirsten
This is a fascinating collection of essays by a young surgeon about various aspects of surgical medicine. For me, the most interesting chapter dealt with surgeons who go bad -- not dramatically terrible surgeons, just those who start out as excellent and slowly sink to mediocrity and eventually malpractice. I think people who enjoyed the medical chapters of Stiff might find this one equally interesting.
Olivia Holah
May 26, 2016 Olivia Holah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The start of the book was very slow for me and I started to regret my choice reading it. Once I got passed the first few chapters; I was hooked. Let me tell you, any person that does not like surgery will get queasy. Some chapters he would ramble on about very unnecessary items, but my favorite chapter was with Vince because I felt like I was watching him transform into the person he wanted to be. The title also made me think how imperfect the medical field is because everybody is so unique and ...more
Samar Barakat
Jun 02, 2016 Samar Barakat rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Eye-opening with interesting ruminations about the nature of medical knowledge and the manner of decision-making in medicine- apparently it does not always follow a strict algorithm and is often subject to the recent experiences, whims, and instincts of the specialist making the decision. Gawande is quite an impressive writer, and he seems to enjoy delving into descriptive details that have no immediate relevance for the medical cases at hand. He goes overboard sometimes, though, and could have ...more
Pippa
Aug 29, 2015 Pippa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Being in the medical profession I think that you should read one of Gawandes books at some point in your career (just like you must read House of God). It's a great insight into the daily dilemmas that we face & a real reminder to me as to what should be important when dealing with patients, relatives & colleagues. It's easy to forget why I went into this profession when faced with the constant pressures of targets on a background of "must try harders" from the Government & press, bu ...more
Amber Alerta
Oct 22, 2014 Amber Alerta rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Complications is a book O rate as 4 stars. It really delved into the world of surgery, yet I was still able to understand a majority of the topics he elaborated on. It is divided into three sections Fallibility, Mystery and Uncertainty. The first section, Fallibility, I would rate as four stars. It is personal, honest and very scary look at Gawande’s life and observations as a surgical resident. He talks about how despite a surgeon’s public face of knowing exactly what they are doing they are of ...more
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Atul Gawande is author of three bestselling books: Complications, a finalist for the National Book Award; Better, selected by Amazon.com as one of the ten best books of 2007; and The Checklist Manifesto. His latest book is Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End.

He is also a surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, a staff writer for The New Yorker, and a professor at Harvard
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“We look for medicine to be an orderly field of knowledge and procedure. But it is not. It is an imperfect science, an enterprise of constantly changing knowledge, uncertain information, fallible individuals, and at the same time lives on the line. There is science in what we do, yes, but also habit, intuition, and sometimes plain old guessing. The gap between what we know and what we aim for persists. And this gap complicates everything we do.” 136 likes
“No matter what measures are taken, doctors will sometimes falter, and it isn't reasonable to ask that we achieve perfection. What is reasonable is to ask that we never cease to aim for it.” 33 likes
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