Academic journal article Journal of the Medical Library Association

New Journals for Publishing Medical Case Reports

Academic journal article Journal of the Medical Library Association

New Journals for Publishing Medical Case Reports

Article excerpt

Case reports-which are detailed descriptions of the symptoms, diagnoses, disease courses, and treatments of one or a few patients-are a prominent form of medical communication that can be traced back to ancient Egypt [1]. Starting in the late 1970s, however, case reports became viewed as less scientific than research articles, and the movement toward evidence-based medicine in the late 1980s pushed case reports down to the bottom of the hierarchy of evidence [2]. Also, case reports do not receive nearly as many citations as meta-analyses or randomized controlled trials [3]. In part for these reasons, many journals have ceased to publish case reports or have severely limited the number of case reports published per issue, thereby suppressing this type of publication.

Over the last couple of decades, much debate has centered on the value of case reports [4]. Whereas some view case reports as mere anecdotes that can cause more harm than good by highlighting rare occurrences [5, 6], others believe that case reports are important for medical progress [7, 8]. Whereas randomized controlled trials can provide strong confirmatory evidence of treatment efficacy, case reports serve different purposes: communicating the discovery of new diseases, disease mechanisms, or therapeutic approaches; alerting the medical community to adverse or beneficial effects of drugs; and generating new hypotheses to be tested by studies that employ more scientifically rigorous research designs [9, 10].

Beyond being a mere bystander of evidence-based medicine, case reports can serve as sources of evidence in systematic reviews and meta-analyses [11], and a new type of ''evidence-based case report'' demonstrates how to apply knowledge gleaned from clinical trials and systematic reviews to the management of individual patients [12]. A particular observation independently reported by several different case reports can be considered a ''nugget'' of information calling attention to reliable and potentially influential findings [13]. Case reports possess considerable educational value, not only giving readers a chance to confront novel clinical scenarios and reflect upon their own practice [14], but also training authors to think and write clearly and critically [15]. Furthermore, case studies have the potential to be highly read and to have a significant impact on subsequent clinical research [16, 17].


Although temporarily shadowed by the rise of evidence-based medicine, case reports are once again being recognized as valuable contributions to the medical literature. At the same time, clinical faculty and residents are facing increased pressure to publish [18, 19], and writing a case report is a relatively quick and easy way to engage in scholarship. To meet a growing demand for venues in which to publish case reports, new peer-reviewed journals that focus-sometimes exclusively-on publishing case reports have rapidly emerged over the last several years (Figure 1). As of mid-2015, at least 160 case reports journals from 78 publishers are in existence (Table 1, online only), with more launchingeachmonth.Someofthesejournalsare general medical journals (e.g., BioMed Central's Journal of Medical Case Reports, BMJ Publishing Group's BMJ Case Reports, Wiley's Clinical Case Reports), and others serve specific branches of medicine (e.g., Elsevier's Epilepsy and Behavior Case Reports and Gynecologic Oncology Reports, Oxford University Press's Journal of Surgical Case Reports). Some have been introduced as ''sister journals'' or ''companion journals'' to more established titles (e.g., Elsevier's JAAD Case Reports is a companion to the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology; De Gruyter's Case Reports in Perinatal Medicine is a companion to the Journal of Perinatal Medicine).

So far, nearly half of these case report journals (41%) have been indexed in PubMed (Table 1, online only), which facilitates the discovery of case reports by researchers and clinicians and increases their prospects of influencing medical research or practice. …

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