Netter's Essential Histology

Author: William K. Ovalle & Patrick C. Nahirney

Publisher: Saunders Elsevier, 2007

2007; 493 pp., $71.95 softcover


There are numerous histology texts, atlases, and combined text-atlases available in the medical student textbook market. Netter’s Essential Histology is a new entrant to the field. The authors have assembled a compilation of drawings— many from the Netter collection—photomicrographs, and electron micrographs combined with a concise text.  The intended audience is undergraduate medical students, as well as other professional healthcare students, and faculty who teach histology and pathology courses.

The authors are well known anatomists with many years of experience in teaching the anatomical disciplines. The depth and breadth of their knowledge is reflected in an outstanding presentation of histology. The drawings and images emphasize tissue and organ morphology, including embryological, macroscopic, and histological structure, as well as ultrastructure.  Morphology is not presented in isolation.  The authors link structure and function with both text and figures.  They use timely “clinical points” to relate the normal to the abnormal, but these examples are limited considering the direction of increased integration of histology and pathology in many current undergraduate medical curricula.

The content of this book is very concentrated with optimal use of space. In my experience, our current generation of students likes this approach, although the text makes very dense reading for undergraduate medical students learning histology for the first time.  The text will be an excellent resource for students reviewing for National Board of Medical Examiners Subject (“Shelf”) exams or Step I of the USMLE.  Access is provided to Student Consult (, which is popular with students.

The quality of the drawings, photomicrographs, and electron micrographs is excellent. The authors have taken meticulous care in presenting the illustrations and have organized them in a manner to optimize student understanding of the relationship between the macroscopic, microscopic, and electron microscopic structure.  Photomicrographs of light microscopic, hematoxylin and eosin-stained sections at a variety of magnifications are appropriately supplemented with special stains and electron micrographs.  The structural and functional aspects of the cell are beautifully illustrated in the opening chapter and those concepts are applied to tissues and organs throughout the book.

There are no major omissions. The chapters are organized in a very logical order and each chapter is complete in its coverage of key topics. The authors are to be complimented for their inclusion of chapters on sensory systems—coverage of the eye and ear are sometimes omitted from histology atlases and texts because these topics are often covered in neurosciences courses. The review of stains and staining techniques is handled very well in the appendix, which includes both descriptions and photomicrographs illustrating the methods. However, it would have been beneficial to include figures to illustrate immunocytochemistry and scanning electron microscopy. Immunocytochemistry, in particular, is important because photomicrographs using this method are provided throughout the book and it is a technique used extensively in cell biology, histology, and pathology.   

In summary, Netter’s Essential Histology is an excellent textbook with exquisite illustrations and micrographs that provide a broad coverage of histology with clinical correlations. The concise textual material may be an advantage for students and faculty members faced with the continued reduction in time for teaching and learning the anatomical disciplines in either integrated or traditional discipline-based curricula. 


Reviewer: Robert M. Klein, Ph.D., Professor of Anatomy & Cell Biology, Associate Dean for Professional Development and Faculty Affairs, University of Kansas, School of Medicine

Review Date: March 2008

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