My book
The art of surgery in vibrant watercolour

Minor Surgery: a visual guide for office-based surgery from beginner to expert by
Dr Samantha Murton is a practical and visual delight.

  • Self-published and self-illustrated, it combines two of Dr Murton’s seemingly disparate skills.
  • 14 years of minor surgery at the Wellington Regional Plastic, Maxillofacial and Burns Unit
  • 15 years of minor surgery in general practice
  • 10 years of watercolour classes.

I recall at school the steering of students towards science or the arts as if they were mutually exclusive, yet many doctors like Dr Murton prove that aptitude for one does not exclude aptitude for the other.

The text is written in the first person and it makes for an engaging read – the conversational tone makes me feel as if I’ve rung her up and asked, “Hey Sam, what suture material should I use for ?” ‘Well Emma, I use…”

It’s full of those useful tips picked up through experience – I’ve had a few scalpel blades break during removal from the handle so I’m going to try Dr Murton’s method next time. About six years ago I stopped removing sebaceous cysts after a run of two wound dehiscence’s and infection that made me feel I was no longer safe. As I read the book, and it can indeed be read from cover to cover for enjoyment alone, I identified my mistakes – no deep sutures because I didn’t know how to do them and I took the non-absorbable sutures out too early.

Now I’ve got detailed instructions I’ll have a bit of practice with some pig skin and re-enter the fray with a suitable (well-primed) patient. It’s certainly more convenient for my patients for me to be able to do this myself rather than refer them. I wonder if pigs get sebaceous cysts.

The watercolour illustrations have allowed Dr Murton to show exactly what she wants to show, and to annotate the illustrations. I imagine this could have been done with photographs and Photoshop, which would have performed the function but lacked the charm which makes this book such a pleasure.

I particularly liked the illustration that went with the observation that an excised ellipse of skin and fat should result in a specimen that is the shape of the hull of a boat. Dr Murton first started this project in May 2014. After eight iterations, the guidance of Mary Egan publishing and a house strewn with paintings (they need to be four times the size of the finished product) the book was published in July 2015.

Folk it would be good for include:

  • Me ie, a general GP, but there is also a section on flaps for those more surgically skilled colleagues
  • Nurses who suture
  • Training practices – this would be a good resource for registrars
It’s a spiral bound hardback with durable pages. The cost is $65, and copies can be ordered by clicking the buy now button below.
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