Campbell’s Operative Orthopedics is a cornerstone of any orthopedic surgeon’s library. It’s one of the few volumes that every resident knows he or she will have to own – no point complaining about the price. If a junior resident shows up to do a case and has not at least read the requisite chapter in Campbell’s, then they should be prepared to go no further than a few hours of holding retractors for the attending and making idle chit-chat.

So, the arrival of an iPhone version of this four volume tome is certainly an important milestone. How did they do? This full review will explain.

This iPhone / iPod Touch medical application is another collaboration between the book’s publisher Elsevier and the mobile medical software publisher Modality.  As with other Modality titles, the user interface is clean and easy to navigate. The transition between text and images is easy to understand and the wealth of videos will please almost any user. A total of 242 techniques and nearly 25 videos have been ported to the mobile application.  Of course, the videos come with a storage price of  874 Mb on your iPhone or iPod Touch. While this will almost certainly be the largest app on your iPhone, a few minutes of use will have you wondering how you got by without it.

What I liked:
  • gives you the opportunity to think about upcoming surgeries while on the go
  • uncluttered and straightforward user interface
  • text reduced to mobile screen-ready bullet points
  • numerous embedded videos
  • 1/4th the price of the printed version with DVD (currently more than $400 on

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What I didn’t like so much, and what could be improved upon:
  • a “home” button to navigate to the root menu would be handy as it sometimes takes 3-4 steps to return
  • the chapter authors are not always identified, important to know since surgical techniques are as much surgeon preference as science
  • displaying the appropriate bullet point from the text beneath the operative drawings would make them even more valuable
  • would like to have references from the text for additional reading (as an example, see the previously reviewed Clinical Orthopaedic Exam App)
  • an option to enter your own notes for procedures would be a nice addition

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Disseminating text and visual information on surgical techniques would seem an obvious fit for technology and there are several very good resources already.The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons has “Orthopedic Knowledge Online”, a members-only website with surgical techniques and videos.  Other sources are the subscription-based Video Journal of Orthopedics, that is aligned with the important Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery and VuMedi is a commercial site with a wealth of videos and good social networking features. The missing link seems to be a mobile interface, so that the information is made available at the point of care. In that sense, the arrival of this application is timely.

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Since surgical techniques are, to a large part, surgeon preference, there will likely never be a single definitive source of information. Nevertheless, within orthopedics, Campbell’s is as close as it gets to an authoritative resource. This pedigree immediately lifts this application, while the clean and easy to navigate interface makes it more attractive than the cluttered facade of all three of the above sites.

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It is also striking that despite the wealth of information and careful editing that goes into a finely crafted tome such as Campbell’s Operative Orthopedics, textbooks still stand as isolated silos of information in an otherwise highly networked and rapidly-evolving internet era. Therefore, more innovations in medical education must necessarily be yet to arrive. For now though, just about every orthopedic resident and most attendings with an iPhone or iPod Touch would do well to save up the $99 to buy this application.



-Dr. Wodajo is a senior writer for iMedical Apps and we feel privileged to have him on board.  He brings an extensive clinical background to his medical app reviews. His blog can be found at