A pitfall is defined as “an unapparent source of trouble or danger; a hidden hazard” by thefreedictionary.com

In the book Emergency Medicine: Avoiding the Pitafalls and Improving the Outcomes edited by Dr. Amal Mattu along with Dr. Deepi Goyal, you can find many pitfalls that should be considered when managing patients in the emergency department. The book, relatively affordable ($57) when it comes to print hard-bound textbooks, consists of 13 quick-read chapters of common chief complaints in emergency medicine. Some of the authors in this book include: Drs. Peter DeBlieux, Jairo Quintanilla, Robert Rogers, Michael Winters, and others. 

The chapters are arranged by chief complaints, and each chapter is subdivided into pitfalls. The chapters include the evaluation and management of chest syndromes, dyspnea, abdominal pain, back pain, headache, neck pain, trauma, infectious disease, wound care, pregnant patient, pediatric patient, heme/onc, and intoxicated/violent patient. The content skips the basic evaluation and management of these chief complaints and focuses on key facts and pitfalls. At the end of each chapter you will find “Pearls for Improving Patient Outcomes”, which is a list summarizing the salient, advanced-level pitfalls. 

The book does not feel as if I am reading a textbook, but rather as if I was having a conversation with someone telling me how, with evidenced practice, they avoid these hidden hazards. The book is pretty thin which lends itself to be stored in the department for learning purposes. It is geared toward practicing clinicians and physicians-in-training as well. Although it is supposed to be used by physicians-in-training, it serves a different purpose than the traditional textbook which focuses on teaching the basics and classic presentations of clinical syndromes. The book has definitely broaden my knowledge of medical practice. I have thus become more vigilant of when things might go wrong in practice and not be so locked into the clinical patterns learned in medical school. 

Should pitfalls be part of our early training? After all, it is part of the practice of medicine.   

Dr. Benítez’s disclaimer: No conflict of interest 

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Javier Benitez, MD

Javier Benitez, MD

ALiEM Featured Contributor
Javier Benitez, MD


Medical doctor, tweets not medical advice or endorsements. Interested in #MedEd & technology. Always learning. I'm no expert. No financial conflict of interest.
Javier Benitez, MD