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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

4.25  ·  Rating details ·  31,996 ratings  ·  2,211 reviews
In gripping accounts of true cases, surgeon Atul Gawande explores the power and the limits of medicine, offering an unflinching view from the scalpel's edge. Complications lays bare a science not in its idealized form but as it actually is--uncertain, perplexing, and profoundly human.

Complications is a 2002 National Book Award Finalist for Nonfiction.
Paperback, 270 pages
Published April 1st 2003 by Picador USA (first published 2002)
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Nov 12, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Ben Pederson
Feb 04, 2008 rated it did not like it
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
Oct 24, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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 10, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Sarah Lumos
“Practice is funny that way. For days and days, you make out only the fragments of what to do. And then one day you've got the thing whole. Conscious learning becomes unconscious knowledge, and you cannot say precisely how.”

I have always been intrigued by medicine. I know it’s a scary thought, but inevitably, illness will impact each of us in one way or another. Either we will get sick or somebody we love will get sick. Which is why learning about medicine and healthcare is so important. How
amirMasoud Hadidi
May 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: md, reread, getsoon
نویسنده تجربه های شخصی خودش رو بیان کرده بود و تفکراتش
رو درباره اینکه پیچیدگی ها چطور در پزشکی تنیده شدند در میان آنها قرار داده بود
از اون نوع کتاب هاست که باید نکته های کوچکش رو دریابی
Oct 10, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 09, 2009 rated it really liked it
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.
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
Mar 29, 2008 rated it liked it
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
Mar 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 26, 2007 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
Jul 28, 2011 rated it really liked it
Great. Reminds me of why I wanted to do medicine.
David Bjelland
A book full of valuable observations and statistics for a reader like myself with pretty much no knowledge about the American medical system that hasn't been gleaned from dramatizations of it on TV or conversations around the politics of it, but at times frustrating in its "pop"-ness, coming across as either patronizing or amateurish.

For one, Gawande has a bad case of the "It was a crisp, sunny day in Autumn when..."s - such rushed, bland scene-setting for the OR anecdotes makes you wish he'd e
Valerie Kyriosity
Jan 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobooks
Fascinating. I only wish Gawande brought a biblical worldview into the topic. It was the missing dimension in many stories—What role does human depravity play here? How could prayer make a difference there? What if we applied basic principles of wisdom in this case? What if the gospel were presented in that one? Man is so complex—body, mind, and spirit so inextricably intertwined—that we're never going to understand the complexities of any one of them without bringing our knowledge of the others ...more
Nov 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
Disturbing. Fascinating. Illuminating.
Aug 10, 2007 rated it really liked it
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
Aug 12, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
This was probably the best book I have read for Atul Gawande yet. Atul has a great way of laying out his ideas and experience through story-telling. He takes the reader into journeys around a particular topic very smoothly and in an enjoyable way.
He's got a nice approach to writing. He starts with an interesting introduction on something he wants to discuss and shed light on, lays down the background and fundamentals, without neglecting to convey across any intricacies involved. This often has t
Book Concierge
Nov 04, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Molly Cinderella
Apr 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2015
I love vacations.
Nguyen Hoang Phong
Jan 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Must-read! Amazing! A self-critical, self-aware, proud yet humble insights of a doctor regarding medicine. It's humbling for a non-medical person to understand what doctors go through in their life-saving career.
Jul 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fic
An excellent peek behind the scenes of the surgery field when Gawande was a resident. He uses a good mix of anecdotes and research to speak about each topic. The bottom line and conclusion he comes to is that at the end of the day, there's just as many questions as there are answers in modern medicine. I found the discussion of the never ending battle of a doctor to go with gut instinct or second guess himself when lives are on the line. He did not shy to give personal anecdotes and feelings whe ...more
Jun 14, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Jul 29, 2009 rated it liked it
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
Dec 06, 2017 rated it liked it
This book was not bad. However, it was by no means great. Many of the goodreads reviews of this book mention how interesting the stories that Gawande shared were. I agree that they were interesting stories, but I also agree with reviewers that have complained about the formatting. This book is lacking when it comes to having a good flow. It is simply a collection of stories combined into one book with little separation between stories. Had the different anecdotes been tied together with better t ...more
May 01, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Apr 13, 2015 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
Salvatore Daddario
May 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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
Ellen Keim
Dec 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
I've read several books by doctors about the medical profession and always find them intriguing. My favorites are those by Richard Selzer (Confessions of a Knife, Letters to a Young Doctor, etc.), who, like this author, is a surgeon.

Where Selzer is more literary, this author is more informative and practical about the realities of medicine, such as the necessity of practicing on patients, the role that class plays in quality of treatment received, and the shot-in-the-dark nature of making diagno
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Atul Gawande is author of three bestselling books: Complications, a finalist for the National Book Award; Better, selected by 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
“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.” 174 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.” 41 likes
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