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- J Can Chiropr Assoc
- v.52(4); 2008 Dec
Guidelines to the writing of case studies
Dr. brian budgell.
* Département chiropratique, Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières, 3351, boul des Forges, Trois-Rivières, Qc, Canada G9A 5H7
Dr. Brian Budgell, DC, PhD, JCCA Editorial Board
Case studies are an invaluable record of the clinical practices of a profession. While case studies cannot provide specific guidance for the management of successive patients, they are a record of clinical interactions which help us to frame questions for more rigorously designed clinical studies. Case studies also provide valuable teaching material, demonstrating both classical and unusual presentations which may confront the practitioner. Quite obviously, since the overwhelming majority of clinical interactions occur in the field, not in teaching or research facilities, it falls to the field practitioner to record and pass on their experiences. However, field practitioners generally are not well-practised in writing for publication, and so may hesitate to embark on the task of carrying a case study to publication. These guidelines are intended to assist the relatively novice writer – practitioner or student – in efficiently navigating the relatively easy course to publication of a quality case study. Guidelines are not intended to be proscriptive, and so throughout this document we advise what authors “may” or “should” do, rather than what they “must” do. Authors may decide that the particular circumstances of their case study justify digression from our recommendations.
Additional and useful resources for chiropractic case studies include:
- Waalen JK. Single subject research designs. J Can Chirop Assoc 1991; 35(2):95–97.
- Gleberzon BJ. A peer-reviewer’s plea. J Can Chirop Assoc 2006; 50(2):107.
- Merritt L. Case reports: an important contribution to chiropractic literature. J Can Chiropr Assoc 2007; 51(2):72–74.
Portions of these guidelines were derived from Budgell B. Writing a biomedical research paper. Tokyo: Springer Japan KK, 2008.
This set of guidelines provides both instructions and a template for the writing of case reports for publication. You might want to skip forward and take a quick look at the template now, as we will be using it as the basis for your own case study later on. While the guidelines and template contain much detail, your finished case study should be only 500 to 1,500 words in length. Therefore, you will need to write efficiently and avoid unnecessarily flowery language.
These guidelines for the writing of case studies are designed to be consistent with the “Uniform Requirements for Manuscripts Submitted to Biomedical Journals” referenced elsewhere in the JCCA instructions to authors.
After this brief introduction, the guidelines below will follow the headings of our template. Hence, it is possible to work section by section through the template to quickly produce a first draft of your study. To begin with, however, you must have a clear sense of the value of the study which you wish to describe. Therefore, before beginning to write the study itself, you should gather all of the materials relevant to the case – clinical notes, lab reports, x-rays etc. – and form a clear picture of the story that you wish to share with your profession. At the most superficial level, you may want to ask yourself “What is interesting about this case?” Keep your answer in mind as your write, because sometimes we become lost in our writing and forget the message that we want to convey.
Another important general rule for writing case studies is to stick to the facts. A case study should be a fairly modest description of what actually happened. Speculation about underlying mechanisms of the disease process or treatment should be restrained. Field practitioners and students are seldom well-prepared to discuss physiology or pathology. This is best left to experts in those fields. The thing of greatest value that you can provide to your colleagues is an honest record of clinical events.
Finally, remember that a case study is primarily a chronicle of a patient’s progress, not a story about chiropractic. Editorial or promotional remarks do not belong in a case study, no matter how great our enthusiasm. It is best to simply tell the story and let the outcome speak for itself. With these points in mind, let’s begin the process of writing the case study:
- Title: The title page will contain the full title of the article. Remember that many people may find our article by searching on the internet. They may have to decide, just by looking at the title, whether or not they want to access the full article. A title which is vague or non-specific may not attract their attention. Thus, our title should contain the phrase “case study,” “case report” or “case series” as is appropriate to the contents. The two most common formats of titles are nominal and compound. A nominal title is a single phrase, for example “A case study of hypertension which responded to spinal manipulation.” A compound title consists of two phrases in succession, for example “Response of hypertension to spinal manipulation: a case study.” Keep in mind that titles of articles in leading journals average between 8 and 9 words in length.
- Other contents for the title page should be as in the general JCCA instructions to authors. Remember that for a case study, we would not expect to have more than one or two authors. In order to be listed as an author, a person must have an intellectual stake in the writing – at the very least they must be able to explain and even defend the article. Someone who has only provided technical assistance, as valuable as that may be, may be acknowledged at the end of the article, but would not be listed as an author. Contact information – either home or institutional – should be provided for each author along with the authors’ academic qualifications. If there is more than one author, one author must be identified as the corresponding author – the person whom people should contact if they have questions or comments about the study.
- Key words: Provide key words under which the article will be listed. These are the words which would be used when searching for the article using a search engine such as Medline. When practical, we should choose key words from a standard list of keywords, such as MeSH (Medical subject headings). A copy of MeSH is available in most libraries. If we can’t access a copy and we want to make sure that our keywords are included in the MeSH library, we can visit this address: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov:80/entrez/meshbrowser.cgi
A narrative abstract consists of a short version of the whole paper. There are no headings within the narrative abstract. The author simply tries to summarize the paper into a story which flows logically.
A structured abstract uses subheadings. Structured abstracts are becoming more popular for basic scientific and clinical studies, since they standardize the abstract and ensure that certain information is included. This is very useful for readers who search for articles on the internet. Often the abstract is displayed by a search engine, and on the basis of the abstract the reader will decide whether or not to download the full article (which may require payment of a fee). With a structured abstract, the reader is more likely to be given the information which they need to decide whether to go on to the full article, and so this style is encouraged. The JCCA recommends the use of structured abstracts for case studies.
Since they are summaries, both narrative and structured abstracts are easier to write once we have finished the rest of the article. We include a template for a structured abstract and encourage authors to make use of it. Our sub-headings will be:
- Introduction: This consists of one or two sentences to describe the context of the case and summarize the entire article.
- Case presentation: Several sentences describe the history and results of any examinations performed. The working diagnosis and management of the case are described.
- Management and Outcome: Simply describe the course of the patient’s complaint. Where possible, make reference to any outcome measures which you used to objectively demonstrate how the patient’s condition evolved through the course of management.
- Discussion: Synthesize the foregoing subsections and explain both correlations and apparent inconsistencies. If appropriate to the case, within one or two sentences describe the lessons to be learned.
- Introduction: At the beginning of these guidelines we suggested that we need to have a clear idea of what is particularly interesting about the case we want to describe. The introduction is where we convey this to the reader. It is useful to begin by placing the study in a historical or social context. If similar cases have been reported previously, we describe them briefly. If there is something especially challenging about the diagnosis or management of the condition that we are describing, now is our chance to bring that out. Each time we refer to a previous study, we cite the reference (usually at the end of the sentence). Our introduction doesn’t need to be more than a few paragraphs long, and our objective is to have the reader understand clearly, but in a general sense, why it is useful for them to be reading about this case.
The next step is to describe the results of our clinical examination. Again, we should write in an efficient narrative style, restricting ourselves to the relevant information. It is not necessary to include every detail in our clinical notes.
If we are using a named orthopedic or neurological test, it is best to both name and describe the test (since some people may know the test by a different name). Also, we should describe the actual results, since not all readers will have the same understanding of what constitutes a “positive” or “negative” result.
X-rays or other images are only helpful if they are clear enough to be easily reproduced and if they are accompanied by a legend. Be sure that any information that might identify a patient is removed before the image is submitted.
At this point, or at the beginning of the next section, we will want to present our working diagnosis or clinical impression of the patient.
It is useful for the reader to know how long the patient was under care and how many times they were treated. Additionally, we should be as specific as possible in describing the treatment that we used. It does not help the reader to simply say that the patient received “chiropractic care.” Exactly what treatment did we use? If we used spinal manipulation, it is best to name the technique, if a common name exists, and also to describe the manipulation. Remember that our case study may be read by people who are not familiar with spinal manipulation, and, even within chiropractic circles, nomenclature for technique is not well standardized.
We may want to include the patient’s own reports of improvement or worsening. However, whenever possible we should try to use a well-validated method of measuring their improvement. For case studies, it may be possible to use data from visual analogue scales (VAS) for pain, or a journal of medication usage.
It is useful to include in this section an indication of how and why treatment finished. Did we decide to terminate care, and if so, why? Did the patient withdraw from care or did we refer them to another practitioner?
- Discussion: In this section we may want to identify any questions that the case raises. It is not our duty to provide a complete physiological explanation for everything that we observed. This is usually impossible. Nor should we feel obligated to list or generate all of the possible hypotheses that might explain the course of the patient’s condition. If there is a well established item of physiology or pathology which illuminates the case, we certainly include it, but remember that we are writing what is primarily a clinical chronicle, not a basic scientific paper. Finally, we summarize the lessons learned from this case.
- Acknowledgments: If someone provided assistance with the preparation of the case study, we thank them briefly. It is neither necessary nor conventional to thank the patient (although we appreciate what they have taught us). It would generally be regarded as excessive and inappropriate to thank others, such as teachers or colleagues who did not directly participate in preparation of the paper.
A popular search engine for English-language references is Medline: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi
- Legends: If we used any tables, figures or photographs, they should be accompanied by a succinct explanation. A good rule for graphs is that they should contain sufficient information to be generally decipherable without reference to a legend.
- Tables, figures and photographs should be included at the end of the manuscript.
- Permissions: If any tables, figures or photographs, or substantial quotations, have been borrowed from other publications, we must include a letter of permission from the publisher. Also, if we use any photographs which might identify a patient, we will need their written permission.
In addition, patient consent to publish the case report is also required.
- Name, academic degrees and affiliation
Name, address and telephone number of corresponding author
Statement that patient consent was obtained
Sources of financial support, if any
Key words: (limit of five)
Abstract: (maximum of 150 words)
- Case Presentation
- Management and Outcome
Provide a context for the case and describe any similar cases previously reported.
- Introductory sentence: e.g. This 25 year old female office worker presented for the treatment of recurrent headaches.
- Describe the essential nature of the complaint, including location, intensity and associated symptoms: e.g. Her headaches are primarily in the suboccipital region, bilaterally but worse on the right. Sometimes there is radiation towards the right temple. She describes the pain as having an intensity of up to 5 out of ten, accompanied by a feeling of tension in the back of the head. When the pain is particularly bad, she feels that her vision is blurred.
- Further development of history including details of time and circumstances of onset, and the evolution of the complaint: e.g. This problem began to develop three years ago when she commenced work as a data entry clerk. Her headaches have increased in frequency in the past year, now occurring three to four days per week.
- Describe relieving and aggravating factors, including responses to other treatment: e.g. The pain seems to be worse towards the end of the work day and is aggravated by stress. Aspirin provides some relieve. She has not sought any other treatment.
- Include other health history, if relevant: e.g. Otherwise the patient reports that she is in good health.
- Include family history, if relevant: e.g. There is no family history of headaches.
- Summarize the results of examination, which might include general observation and postural analysis, orthopedic exam, neurological exam and chiropractic examination (static and motion palpation): e.g. Examination revealed an otherwise fit-looking young woman with slight anterior carriage of the head. Cervical active ranges of motion were full and painless except for some slight restriction of left lateral bending and rotation of the head to the left. These motions were accompanied by discomfort in the right side of the neck. Cervical compression of the neck in the neutral position did not create discomfort. However, compression of the neck in right rotation and extension produced some right suboccipital pain. Cranial nerve examination was normal. Upper limb motor, sensory and reflex functions were normal. With the patient in the supine position, static palpation revealed tender trigger points bilaterally in the cervical musculature and right trapezius. Motion palpation revealed restrictions of right and left rotation in the upper cervical spine, and restriction of left lateral bending in the mid to lower cervical spine. Blood pressure was 110/70. Houle’s test (holding the neck in extension and rotation for 30 seconds) did not produce nystagmus or dizziness. There were no carotid bruits.
- The patient was diagnosed with cervicogenic headache due to chronic postural strain.
Management and Outcome:
- Describe as specifically as possible the treatment provided, including the nature of the treatment, and the frequency and duration of care: e.g. The patient undertook a course of treatment consisting of cervical and upper thoracic spinal manipulation three times per week for two weeks. Manipulation was accompanied by trigger point therapy to the paraspinal muscles and stretching of the upper trapezius. Additionally, advice was provided concerning maintenance of proper posture at work. The patient was also instructed in the use of a cervical pillow.
- If possible, refer to objective measures of the patient’s progress: e.g. The patient maintained a headache diary indicating that she had two headaches during the first week of care, and one headache the following week. Furthermore the intensity of her headaches declined throughout the course of treatment.
- Describe the resolution of care: e.g. Based on the patient’s reported progress during the first two weeks of care, she received an additional two treatments in each of the subsequent two weeks. During the last week of care she experienced no headaches and reported feeling generally more energetic than before commencing care. Following a total of four weeks of care (10 treatments) she was discharged.
Synthesize foregoing sections: e.g. The distinction between migraine and cervicogenic headache is not always clear. However, this case demonstrates several features …
Summarize the case and any lessons learned: e.g. This case demonstrates a classical presentation of cervicogenic headache which resolved quickly with a course of spinal manipulation, supportive soft-tissue therapy and postural advice.
References: (using Vancouver style) e.g.
1 Terret AGJ. Vertebrogenic hearing deficit, the spine and spinal manipulation therapy: a search to validate the DD Palmer/Harvey Lillard experience. Chiropr J Aust 2002; 32:14–26.
Legends: (tables, figures or images are numbered according to the order in which they appear in the text.) e.g.
Figure 1: Intensity of headaches as recorded on a visual analogue scale (vertical axis) versus time (horizontal axis) during the four weeks that the patient was under care. Treatment was given on days 1, 3, 5, 8, 10, 12, 15, 18, 22 and 25. Headache frequency and intensity is seen to fall over time.
- Open access
- Published: 06 April 2016
How to review a case report
- Rakesh Garg 1 ,
- Shaheen E. Lakhan 2 &
- Ananda K. Dhanasekaran 3
Journal of Medical Case Reports volume 10 , Article number: 88 ( 2016 ) Cite this article
Peer Review reports
Sharing individual patient experiences with clinical colleagues is an essential component of learning from each other. This sharing of information may be made global by reporting in a scientific journal. In medicine, patient management decisions are generally based on the evidence available for use of a particular investigation or technology [ 1 ]. The hierarchical rank of the evidence signifies the probability of bias. The higher up the hierarchy, the better its reliability and thus its clinical acceptance (Table 1 ). Though case reports remain lowest in the hierarchy of evidence, with meta-analysis representing the highest level, they nevertheless constitute important information with regard to rare events and may be considered as anecdotal evidence [ 2 ] (Table 1 ). Case reports may stimulate the generation of new hypotheses, and thus may support the emergence of new research.
The definition of a case report or a case series is not well defined in the literature and has been defined variously by different journals and authors. However, the basic definition of a case report is the detailed report of an individual including aspects like exposure, symptoms, signs, intervention, and outcome. It has been suggested that a report with more than four cases be called a case series and those with fewer than four a case report [ 3 ]. A case series is descriptive in design. Other authors describe “a collection of patients” as a case series and “a few patients” as a case report [ 4 ]. We suggest that should more than one case be reported, it may be defined as a case series—a concept proposed by other authors [ 5 ].
The importance of case reports
A case report may describe an unusual etiology, an unusual or unknown disorder, a challenging differential diagnosis, an unusual setting for care, information that can not be reproduced due to ethical reasons, unusual or puzzling clinical features, improved or unique technical procedures, unusual interactions, rare or novel adverse reactions to care, or new insight into the pathogenesis of disease [ 6 , 7 ]. In recent years, the publication of case reports has been given low priority by many high impact factor journals. However, the need for reporting such events remains. There are some journals dedicated purely to case reports, such as the Journal of Medical Case Reports , emphasizing their importance in modern literature. In the past, isolated case reports have led to significant advancements in patient care. For example, case reports concerning pulmonary hypertension and anorexic agents led to further trials and the identification of the mechanism and risk factors associated with these agents [ 2 , 8 ].
Reporting and publishing requirements
The reporting of cases varies for different journals. The authors need to follow the instructions for the intended publication. Owing to significant variability, it would be difficult to have uniform publication guidelines for case reports. A checklist called the CARE guidelines is useful for authors writing case reports [ 9 , 10 ]. However, it would be universally prudent to include a title, keywords, abstract, introduction, patient information, clinical findings, timeline, diagnostic assessment, therapeutic interventions, follow-up and outcomes, discussion, patient perspective, and informed consent.
Peer review process
The peer review process is an essential part of ethical and scientific writing. Peer review ultimately helps improve articles by providing valuable feedback to the author and helps editors make a decision regarding publication. The peer reviewer should provide unbiased, constructive feedback regarding the manuscript. They may also highlight the strengths and weaknesses of the report. When reviewing an article, it is prudent to read the entire manuscript first to understand the overall content and message. The reviewer than may read section-wise and provide comments to the authors and editorial team accordingly. The reviewer needs to consider the following important points when reviewing a case for possible publication [ 8 , 9 ] (summarized in Table 2 ).
Novelty remains the foremost important aspect of a case. The case report should introduce novel aspects of patient evaluation, investigation, treatment, or any other aspect related to patient care. The relevant information becomes a hypothesis generator for further study. The novelty may at times be balanced with some important information like severe adverse effects, even if they have been reported earlier. Reporting adverse events remains important so that information on cumulative adverse effects can be gathered globally, which helps in preparing a policy or guideline or a warning note for its use in patients. The data related to adverse effects include not only the impact but also the number of patients affected. This becomes more important for serious adverse effects. In the absence of an international registry for adverse effects, published case reports are important pieces of information. Owing to ethical concerns, formal evaluation may not be feasible in the format of prospective study.
The case needs to have all essential details to allow a useful conclusion to emerge. For example, if a case is being reported for hemodynamic variability due to a drug, then the drug dose and timing along with timed vital signs need to be described.
Authenticity and genuineness
Honesty remains the most important basic principle of all publications. This remains a primary responsibility of the authors. However, if there is any doubt, reviewers may seek clarification. This doubt may result from some discordance in the case description. At times, a lack of correlation between the figures and description may act as “red flags.” For instance, authors may discuss a technique for dealing with a difficult airway, but the figure is of a normal-appearing airway. Another example would be where the data and figure do not correlate in a hemodynamic response related to a drug or a technique, with the graphical picture or screenshot of hemodynamics acting as an alert sign. Such cause for concern may be communicated in confidence to the editor.
Ethical or competing interests
Ethical issues need to be cautiously interpreted and communicated. The unethical use of a drug or device is not desirable and often unworthy of publication. This may relate to the route or dose of the drug administered. The off-label use of drugs where known side effects are greater than potential benefit needs to be discouraged and remains an example of unethical use. This use may be related to the drug dose, particularly when the drug dose exceeds the routine recommended dose, or to the route of administration. As an example, the maximal dose of acetaminophen (paracetamol) is 4g/day, and if an author reports exceeding this dose, it should be noted why a greater than recommended dose was used. Ultimately, the use of a drug or its route of administration needs to be justified in the manuscript. The reviewers need to serve as content experts regarding the drugs and other technologies used in the case. A literature search by the reviewer provides the data to comment on this aspect.
Competing interests (or conflicts of interest) are concerns that interfere or potentially interfere with presentation, review, or publication. They must be declared by the authors. Conflicts can relate to patient-related professional attributes (like the use of a particular procedure, drug, or instrument) being affected by some secondary gains (financial, non-financial, professional, personal). Financial conflict may be related to ownership, paid consultancy, patents, grants, honoraria, and gifts. Non-financial conflicts may be related to memberships, relationships, appearance as an expert witness, or personal convictions. At times, the conflict may be related to the author’s relationship with an organization or another person. A conflict may influence the interpretation of the outcome in an inappropriate and unscientific manner. Although conflicts may not be totally abolished, they must be disclosed when they reasonably exist. This disclosure should include information such as funding sources, present membership, and patents pending. Reviewers should cautiously interpret any potential bias regarding the outcome of the case based on the reported conflicts. This is essential for transparent reporting of research. At times, competing interests may be discovered by a reviewer and should be included in comments to the editorial team. Such conflicts may again be ascertained when the reviewer reviews the literature during the peer review process. The reviewer should also disclose their own conflicts related to the manuscript review when sending their report to the editorial team.
Impact on clinical practice
This is an important aspect for the final decision of whether to publish a case report. The main thrust or carry-home message needs to be emphasized clearly. It needs to be elaborated upon in concluding remarks.
Patient anonymity, consent, and ethical approval
When reviewing the manuscript of a case report, reviewers should ensure that the patient’s anonymity and confidentiality is protected. The reviewers should check that patient identifiers have been removed or masked from all aspects of the manuscript, whether in writing or within photograph. Identifiers can include things like the name of the patient, geographical location, date of birth, phone numbers, email of the patient, medical record numbers, or biometric identifiers. Utmost care needs to be taken to provide full anonymity for the patient.
Consent is required to participate in research, receive a certain treatment, and publish identifiable details. These consents are for different purposes and need to be explained separately to the patient. A patient’s consent to participate in the research or for use of the drug may not extend to consent for publication. All these aspects of consent must be explained to the patient, written explicitly in the patient’s own language, understood by the patient, and signed by the patient. For the purpose of the case, the patient must understand and consent for any new technique or drug (its dose, route, and timing) being used. In the case of a drug being used for a non-standard indication or route, consent for use must also be described. Patient consent is essential for the publication of a case if patient body parts are displayed in the article. This also includes any identifiers that can reveal the identity of the patient, such as the patient’s hospital identification number, address, and any other unique identifier. In situations where revealing the patient’s identity cannot be fully avoided, for example if the report requires an image of an identifiable body part like the face, then this should be explained to the patient, the image shown to them, and consent taken. Should the patient die, then consent must be obtained from next of kin or legal representative.
With case series, securing individual patient consent is advised and preferable. The authors may also need institutional review board (IRB) approval to publish a case series. IRBs can waive the need for consent if a study is conducted retrospectively and data are collected from patient notes for the purpose of research, usually in an anonymized way. However, wherever possible, individual patient consent is preferable, even for a retrospective study. Consent is mandatory for any prospective data collection for the purpose of publication as a case series. Consent and/or IRB approval must be disclosed in the case report and reasons for not obtaining individual consent may be described, if applicable.
There may be situations in which publishing patient details without their consent is justified, but this is a decision that should be made by the journal editor, who may decide to discuss the case with the Committee on Publication Ethics. Reviewers need to emphasize the issue to the editor when submitting their comments.
The CARE guidelines provide a framework that supports transparency and accuracy in the publication of case reports and the reporting of information from patient encounters. The acronym CARE was created from CA (the first two letters in “case”) and RE (the first two letters in “reports”). The initial CARE tools are the CARE checklist and the Case Report Writing Templates. These tools support the writing of case reports and provide data that inform clinical practice guidelines and provide early signals of effectiveness, harms, and cost [ 10 ].
The presentation of the case and its interpretation should be comprehensive and related. The various components of the manuscript should have sufficient information for understanding the key message of the case. The reviewer needs to comment on the relevant components of the manuscript. The reviewer should ascertain that the title of the case manuscript is relevant and includes keywords related to the case. The title should be short, descriptive, and interesting. The abstract should be brief, without any abbreviations, and include keywords. It is preferable to use Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) keywords. Reviewers must ensure that the introduction emphasizes the context of the case and describes the relevance and its importance in a concise and comprehensive manner. The case description should be complete and should follow basic rules of medical communication. The details regarding patient history, physical examination, investigations, differential diagnosis, management, and outcome should be described in chronological order. If repeated observations are present, then they may be tabulated. The use of graphs and figures helps the readers to better understand the case. Interpretation or inferences based on the outcomes should be avoided in this section and should be considered a part of the discussion. The discussion should highlight important aspects of the case, with its interpretation within the context of the available literature. References should be formatted as per the journal style. They should be complete and preferably of recent publications.
The reviewer’s remarks are essential not only for the editorial team but also for authors. A good peer review requires honesty, sincerity, and punctuality. Even if a manuscript is rejected, the authors should receive learning points from peer review commentary. The best way to review a manuscript is to read the manuscript in full for a gross overview and develop general comments. Thereafter, the reviewer should address each section of the manuscript separately and precisely. This may be done after a literature search if the reviewer needs to substantiate his/her commentary.
The reviewer’s remarks should be constructive to help the authors improve the manuscript for further consideration. If the manuscript is rejected, the authors should have a clear indication for the rejection. The remarks may be grouped as major and minor comments. Major comments likely suggest changes to the whole presentation, changing the primary aim of the case report, or adding images. Minor comments may include grammatical errors or getting references for a statement. The editorial team must be able to justify their decision on whether or not to accept an article for publication, often by citing peer review feedback. It is also good style to tabulate a list of the strengths and weaknesses of the manuscript.
Fixed time for review
Reviewer remarks should be submitted within a specified timeframe. If any delay is expected, it should be communicated to the editorial team. Reviewers should not rush to submit feedback without sufficient time to adequately review the paper and perform any necessary literature searches. Should a reviewer be unable to submit the review within the specified timeframe, they should reply to the review invitation to decline at their earliest convenience. If, after accepting a review invitation, the reviewer realizes they do not have time to perform the review, this must be communicated to the editorial team.
Conflict of interest
The reviewer’s conflicts of interest should be included along with the review. The conflicts may be related to the contents of the case, drugs, or devices pertaining to the case; the author(s); or the affiliated institution(s) of the author(s).
Lack of expertise
The reviewer may decline to review the manuscript if they think the topic is out of their area of expertise. If, after accepting an invitation to review, the reviewer realizes they are unable to review the manuscript owing to a lack of expertise in that particular field, they should disclose the fact to the editorial team.
The reviewer should keep the manuscript confidential and should not use the contents of the unpublished manuscript in any form. Discussing the manuscript among colleagues or any scientific forum or meetings is inappropriate.
Review of revised manuscript
At times, a manuscript is sent for re-review to the reviewer. The reviewer should read the revised manuscript, the author’s response to the previous round of peer review, and the editorial comments. Sometimes, the authors may disagree with the reviewer’s remarks. This issue needs to be elaborated on and communicated with the editor. The reviewer should support their views with appropriate literature references. If the authors justify their reason for disagreeing with the viewer, then their argument should be considered evidence-based. However, if the reviewer still requests the revision, this may be politely communicated to the author and editor with justification for the same. In response to reviewers remarks, authors may not agree fully and provide certain suggestion in the form of clarification related to reviewers remarks. The reviewers should take these clarifications judiciously and comment accordingly with the intent of improving the manuscript further.
Peer reviewers have a significant role in the dissemination of scientific literature. They act as gatekeepers for science before it is released to society. Their sincerity and dedication is paramount to the success of any journal. The reviewers should follow a scientific and justifiable methodology for reviewing a case report for possible publication. Their comments should be constructive for the overall improvement of the manuscript and aid the editorial team in making a decision on publication. We hope this article will help reviewers to perform their important role in the best way possible. We send our best wishes to the reviewer community and, for those who are inspired to become reviewers after reading this article, our warm welcome to the reviewers’ club.
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Authors and affiliations.
Department of Anaesthesiology, Pain and Palliative Care, DR BRAIRCH, AIIMS, Ansari Nagar, New Delhi, 110029, India
Neurology and Medical Education, California University of Science and Medicine - School of Medicine, Colton, CA, USA
Shaheen E. Lakhan
Sandwell & West Birmingham Hospitals, NHS Trust, Birmingham, UK
Ananda K. Dhanasekaran
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Correspondence to Rakesh Garg .
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Garg, R., Lakhan, S.E. & Dhanasekaran, A.K. How to review a case report. J Med Case Reports 10 , 88 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1186/s13256-016-0853-3
Received : 27 August 2015
Accepted : 25 February 2016
Published : 06 April 2016
DOI : https://doi.org/10.1186/s13256-016-0853-3
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- History of Present Illness
Review of Systems
- Past Medical History
- Physical Examination
- Essential Differential Diagnosis
- Relevant Next Steps
- Test Result 1
- Essential Immediate Steps
- About the Case
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Neoventa Academy is offering a unique opportunity to participate in online patient case reviews led by various consultants and doctors in the obstetric field. The sessions are free of charge and are focused on real-life scenarios with the analysis of one patient case per session on the basis of the new physiological guidelines for CTG and ST analysis.
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- History of Present Illness
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- Past Medical History
- Physical Examination
- Essential Differential Diagnosis
- Relevant Testing
- Test Results
- Test Interpretation
- Treatment Orders
- About the Case
Cough in a 54-yr-old Man
- General : Patient felt fine until about 4 days ago. He thinks he has had a fever but did not take his temperature. He had a shaking chill last night that shook the bed and alarmed his wife. He feels quite “run down” and was too sick to go to work today so he came in. Before onset of this illness, he felt fine and was doing all his normal activities. He has been eating normally with no recent weight loss.
- Skin : Has not noticed rash or skin lesions.
- HEENT : Runny nose and mild sore throat began about 4 days ago. Rhinorrhea is clear. He is able to swallow with only mild discomfort. He has not noticed swollen nodes in his neck.
- Pulmonary : He has had dyspnea when climbing stairs since illness began but no dyspnea at rest. He feels vague, continuous “discomfort” in the left side of his chest, and he has a sharp pain with inspiration. He denies wheezing.
- Cardiovascular : There is no exertional chest pain, palpitations, orthopnea, or paroxysmal nocturnal dyspnea.
- Gastrointestinal : He has had a poor appetite for several days but is able to eat and drink. He denies reflux symptoms.
- Genitourinary : Noncontributory
- Musculoskeletal : He has right knee pain with exertion. He has not noticed any pedal edema.
- Neurologic : Noncontributory
- Psychiatric : Noncontributory
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