A case report is a short but detailed account of an individual patient’s clinical case, describing the symptoms, diagnosis, treatment and outcome of the patient. Typically, it describes a patient with a rare condition or complications that are challenging to treat.
Case reports provide a map through uncharted clinical territory and help other clinicians who encounter similar scenarios to make informed decisions.
Why should I publish a case report?
Case reports bring great value to the clinical community, such as increasing awareness of rare diseases and revealing previously under-appreciated disease mechanisms or new therapeutic strategies. Case reports can also cover rare adverse responses to treatment. In addition, they provide a way for clinicians who are not involved in research programs to publish findings of value to the community.
There are also great benefits of publishing negative or null results in a case report. For example, they can help other researchers to adjust their research plans to avoid wasting time and money; they also fill in the scientific record and increase reproducibility of certain results.
So how do you write a case report?
Before you start
Do your research – is your clinical case duplicating another already published case on the same patient? Does it contain all the necessary elements? It is crucial to collect and review all clinical data for the case before you start writing.
Discuss your plan with your colleagues - If several colleagues are involved, you may wish to share the writing between you. Before you start, it's a good idea to agree authorship order on the manuscript. Remember, all authors listed on the manuscript should make a significant contribution to the work.
Get consent from the patient - A case report requires informed written consent from the patient. It's good practice to discuss your plans to write the case report with the patient in advance and inform them of any images you are planning to use that could reveal their identity.
Decide where you want to publish your case report – Different journals have different requirements for case reports. It is a good idea to decide where you want to publish so you can tailor your case report to meet the journal’s requirements.
How to structure your case report?
In general, case reports require the following components:
Here, you should summarize the clinical case from symptoms and diagnosis to treatment and outcome. Typically, abstracts are very short (100-200 words), but you should ensure that it delivers your message accurately.
This should provide an overview of the clinical situation. In some cases, a brief literature review may be required. Then, you should introduce the patient and describe their symptoms.
This is the main component of the report. First, describe the patient and their clinical history, then detail the results of initial physical examinations and other pathological tests. Next, move on to the treatment decisions taken by the clinician(s), along with the factors and hypotheses underlying these decisions. Finally, detail the treatment outcomes.
In this section, you should highlight the challenges and successes of the case. Remember to emphasize why the case is important for the clinical community by discussing the treatment strategy and outcomes in the context of existing hypotheses and results in the literature. You may also want to include a discussion about how the results differ or agree with those in the literature, and how the case may shape future clinical practice.
This should summarize the key points. You can also include recommendations for researchers or clinicians dealing with similar cases.
Informed consent from the patient is required to publish your case report in a journal. If you have any questions about patient consent, you can reach out to your institution for advice.
Data availability statement
Many publishers including Hindawi require each publication to have a Data Availability Statement. Sharing your research data can not only increase the utility and reliability of your case report but also its impact and visibility. Hindawi highly recommend our authors to deposit their research data in a publicly available data repository wherever possible.
Where should I publish my case report?
Some publishers offer journal finding services such as Wiley’s Journal Finder to help you find a suitable journal for your potential publication. Tools like Clarivate’s Master Journal List can also find you relevant journals based on your manuscript.
Hindawi has a wide selection of case report journals. You can filter by journals that specialize in case reports on the Hindawi website.
Case reports provide unique insight into real-life clinical scenarios – whether you are presenting positive or negative/null results - and are a valuable resource for clinicians who encounter similar situations. If you are considering writing a case report, we hope you’ve found these tips useful.