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Another Day in the Frontal Lobe: A Brain Surgeon Exposes Life on the Inside Paperback – 12 Jun 2007

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Paperback, 12 Jun 2007

Product details

  • Paperback: 271 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Trade; Reprint edition (12 Jun. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812973402
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812973402
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 1.5 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,434,494 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Donald M. Macdonald on 26 Nov. 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I was inspired to seek this out from seeing a documentary but this is truly brilliant ionsight into the working life an dthe thinking life of a surgeon on the front line of brain surgery. For people used to second hand accounts of medical dramas, this is a real revelation of what life is really like at the cutting edge.
Surgery is hard and every operation is an adventure, almost like a battle - surgeons know so much because of their training but patients are different and this is a no holds barred account of how a surgeon deals with it all.
Recommended highly
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 107 reviews
42 of 44 people found the following review helpful
"The brain is my business." 23 July 2006
By E. Bukowsky - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Katrina Firlik is one of approximately 4,500 neurosurgeons in the United States. Although only five percent are women, the number is growing as more bright and ambitious females enter the field. In her book, "Another Day in the Frontal Lobe," Firlik writes about her seven years of post-medical school training which led to her appointment as Chief Resident of Neurosurgery at the age of thirty-three, and later, to a job in an upscale Connecticut hospital.

After briefly touching on the history of neurosurgery, Firlik discusses the nature of this specialty. It is a combination of science and mechanics. Unlike neurologists and psychologists, both of whom deal with the human brain, it is the neurosurgeon's task to physically heal patients who have blood clots, tumors, and other traumas that afflict the brain and spinal cord. Technical proficiency, accuracy, and speed on the part of the surgeon are all essential if the patient is to survive with minimal impairment.

The book is filled with anecdotes about unusual cases, such as the carpenter who sat placidly in the emergency room with a heavy-duty nail sticking out of his skull, and the child whose mother allowed his routine ear infection to develop into meningitis because she refused to give him antibiotics. Firlik talks about the anatomy and function of the brain clearly, using layman's terms. Squeamish readers should beware, however, since the author describes her cases in graphic detail.

Although Firlik's account is engrossing and informative enough, her writing style is a bit scattered; she routinely jumps from one subject to another. In addition, we never get to know the author very well as a person. She comes across as a steady, competent, and confident doctor, but she doesn't allow us to peek beneath her cool and calm demeanor very deeply.

The final chapter, "Brainlifts," is a look at the high-tech future of neurosurgery. The time has come when we can have "cognitive tune-ups," much as an automobile has a tune-up to maximize its performance. A doctor can implant a "neat little metal plug" with an electrode and battery overlying the major nodes in the patient's memory network. Constant low-grade electrical stimulation enhances the person's ability to function intellectually. In addition, doctors are devising less invasive methods to successfully treat brain aneurysms and certain types of tumors. The field of neurosurgery is still a wide-open frontier with no limits on the horizon.
29 of 34 people found the following review helpful
Fascinating read 10 May 2006
By Reader - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As a mother of a boy who underwent brain surgery (fortunately successful), I was naturally drawn to this title. What I hadn't expected was to find it such a fascinating and fun read. I simply couldn't put the book down. Dr. Firlik is as talented a writer as she obviously is a surgeon (and why not, how many doctors would name Raymond Carver as one of their favorite authors - most I would venture to guess, wouldn't even know his name). I learned a great deal from this book - some of which I was glad I didn't know before my son's surgery. I can't imagine anyone, whether or not they have faced neurosurgery, not enjoying this book.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Light and Breezy Medical Memoir 20 Mar. 2007
By C. Middleton - Published on
Format: Hardcover
It is really becoming quite astonishing to see the sheer amount of medical memoirs or medical autobiographies that have been hitting the book market over the last five to ten years. Having an interest in medical training as a subject and medical history, these memoirs never fail to intrigue and entertain. Another Day in the Frontal Lobe is no exception, and what makes this particular narrative more compelling is the fact that it is written by a woman, a neurosurgeon, where the profession twenty-five years ago was predominately a male domain. This is not the main focus of the text, however, as Firlik proposes, women in the profession have more or less paved the way for up and coming female (neuro) surgeons, making her experience much less troublesome. Similar to many medical memoirs, the narrative begins during the infamous residency period of training, where most of the more meaningful (and horrific) experiences occur for the doctor.

Firlik writes in a light and breezy conversational tone creating the atmosphere for the reader of sitting with her in a café drinking coffee and listening to her expound about her childhood, marriage, medical philosophy, her approach to medicine and how it developed; and her interesting personal philosophy on what life is and how she views the world. I did not expect the depth of a theologian or philosopher, but her `Nature' based views are not surprising in the least coming from a woman of science.

Horror stories are common to this genre but the author only retells a few, focusing more on the neurosurgical methods themselves and how they are developing. One of my favourite chapters is "Tools" where Firlik discusses the relatively new 3-D image-guidance technology where... "the patient's MRI scan is downloaded into a computer system in the OR, and these images are linked to a navigation wand." (p.99) This enables the surgeon to pinpoint the exact location of a tumour and create the smallest of incisions in the skull. One wonders how far medical technology will advance in the next, say, twenty-five years, the possibilities are truly endless.

Personally the more disturbing discussions came at the end of the text on the topic of `cognitive enhancement'. Technology has progressed enough where we can now implant electrical stimulators in the patient's skull to improve cognitive ability. Neurosurgeons around the planet are setting up shop, offering cognitive enhancement to the privileged and wealthy and making buckets of money. Taking this further, research is looking into creating "savants" with these techniques, enabling individuals to be virtual geniuses in specialized areas. In other words, creating "cyborgs", mainly human and part machine; science fiction as the cliché states is becoming science fact.

This is not the space to engage in debate about cognitive enhancement but it surely gives the reader food for thought and where neurology and neurosurgery might be heading.

Katrina Firlik has written an entertaining book on the subject and freely gives her advice to those considering entering the profession.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Interesting, thoughtful, frank and well written 5 Jun. 2006
By AJ Trivedi - Published on
Format: Hardcover
In this excellent book, shaped as a memoir, Dr. Firlik somehow manages to do several things at once - paint a genuine yet engaging picture both of the neurosurgical profession and her own life, present her well thought out opinions on several related issues like end of life treatment v.s. quality of death, religion, evolution and the future of neurosurgery and medicine (without being forceful about them, backed by interesting references) and even offers advice to patients on what to expect from and how to deal with doctors. The book is a great read and I am thankful to the author for helping me vicariously live the life of a neurosurgeon and experience almost everything associated with it.
22 of 29 people found the following review helpful
Where are the people 27 Jun. 2008
By Homedespot1 - Published on
Format: Paperback
It is true this book is "breezy" and it is an "easy read" to quote some other reviews but it seems to be missing some sort of basic humanity. I think what bothered me most was the lack of follow-up on most of the stories of the patients. A few we find out that they "died" or "seem to be doing well" but for the most part the operation is done and you never find out the end results. The end result for me, a layperson, is the book isn't all that interesting. While I love the science aspect, and read for the science parts of it, I am not a scientist. I need the more human element to keep me involved. This book lacks that.

My other issue is her running commentary on religion, god and belief. While I find it unsurprising that she is not a believer in a higher being I find her comments on it rather foolish, as if it is a given and not a topic that reasonable people can differ on. Einstein and Hawking both left the door open for god. I am not suggesting that she should be anything other than what she is in her belief, only that her lack of tolerance and "affection" for those of us so foolishly afflicted with a different opinion is rather grating.
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