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Writing a medical case report

Case reports have fallen out of favour, but they still have a role to play

  • By: Aimun A B Jamjoom, Ali Nikkar-Esfahani, J E F Fitzgerald
  • Published: 13 January 2010
  • DOI: 10.1136/sbmj.b5274
  • Cite this as: Student BMJ 2009;17:b5274

Given the unpredictable and challenging nature of medicine, many medical students will have come across a patient who has not been a textbook case. The patient may have presented in an unusual way, had a strange new pathology, or reacted to a medical intervention in a manner that has not been seen before. The publication of these novelties and curiosities as case reports has for many centuries been a fundamental way of sharing knowledge and conveying medical experience, and throughout history there have been famous case studies that have helped shape the way we view health and disease (box 1).

There are those who argue, however, that case reports are increasingly irrelevant in current medical practice and education.1 Their obscurity and rarity appeal only to the specialised few, and they add little to everyday medical practice. Their anecdotal nature lacks the scientific rigour of large, well conducted studies, and they

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