Publishing a Case Report FAQ

Adapted from, "Getting Your Vignette Published in JGIM and Other Journals: A Step-by-Step Approach. Michael Landry, MD, MS & Carlos Estrada, MD, MS, et al.
It's a CV builder. It helps you learn a lot about the topic and you become the "local expert." It builds/strengthens mentor-mentee relationships and helps you develop creative scientific writing skills.
  • If the clinical presentation is new or unique (higher burden of proof). Think, is the specialist is excited?
  • If the case is a common disease but a unique presentation/twist or maybe it is a common disease, but has not been published lately. It could be published if it is well written and an extensive literature review is completed
  • If you have a great picture or radiographical image
  • If the case illustrates an important point about diagnostic pitfalls, medical decision making, etc.
  • Make sure that you get a picture (after consent) if it is pertinent to the case. A picture is really worth a thousand words.
  • Get the patients contact information so you can follow up with them to see their outcome and if you need them to sign consent later
  • Identify the lead author
  • Identify author sequence
  • Identify roles for each author (literature review, discussion, case presentation)
  • Student participation encouraged (great for those going into that specialty or for recruiting into your program)
  • Give deadlines
  • Some journals require patient consent, while many do not
  • The policies of various institutions may vary, but UAB's policy is that patient consent is not needed if the case report contains 3 or fewer patients and patient personal health information is not used (see HIPPA policy for more details).

Here is a list of journals that accept case reports. Also, think about the specialty area of the case you want to publish and consider those journals as well.

Journal Review

  • Identify 3-5 target journals (know the audience) with similar requirements for length and format
  • Know the impact factor (general terms)
  • Think about the likelihood for publication
  • Browse examples from journal
  • Search recent history
  • Review instruction for authors (familiarize yourself with these instructions and follow them)
  • Title
  • Abstract
  • Introduction/Background
  • Clinical case
  • Discussion
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • Tables/Figures/Images
You need to follow the guidelines for authors for the specific journal that you are submitting to. These are on the journals website. Also, review examples of case reports from that journal. Below are general guidelines.
  • Title
    • Informative and accurate
    • Should not be an unknown
    • Needs to be retrievable with electronic search
  • Abstract
    • Brief summary of entire manuscript
    • Needs to include learning objectives
  • Introduction/Background
    • Literature review for background
    • Learning objectives in context
      • Is case unique? Previously reported?
      • Does case describe 2 disorders/ previously unsuspected causal relationship?
      • Does case represent a new pattern?
      • Does case have an unusual diagnosis, prognosis, therapy or harm?
      • Describe how case contributes to scientific knowledge? Is it worth reading?
      • Describe teaching points that add value to this case. Other Case reports: Uncommon features, atypical/ unusual, new adverse events.
  • Clinical Case
    • Succinct history, physical and diagnostic studies
    • Appropriate hospital/clinical course
    • Pertinent positives and negatives
    • Diagnosis should not be in doubt
  • Discussion
    • Literature review of similar cases. Describe how this case is different/ unique and adds to past published literature. Review of past published relevant cases.
    • Explain the rationale for reporting the case. What is unusual about the case? Does it challenge prevailing wisdom?
    • Possible alternative explanations. Is the cause of the patient's illness clear-cut?
    • Develop the learning points.
    • In the future, could things be done differently in a similar case? Implications for subsequent developments in clinical practice, teaching, or research (Key).
  • Conclusion
    • Summarize manuscript
    • Restate learning objectives/take home points
  • References
    • Make sure they are up to date and formatted according to the journal requirements
    • Repeat literature review immediately prior to submission
  • Tables/Figures/Images
    • Remove patient identifiers
    • Appropriate legends
    • Arrows to identify key points
    • Picture is worth 1000 words
  • Getting started (first draft)
    • Pull your H&P, consultant reports, discharge summaries
    • Pull radiology studies, pathology slides
    • Pull any articles researched during case
    • Drop into word document
    • First draft complete!!!
  • Perform literature review
    • General review
    • Targeted review (especially journals that publish case report)
    • Review again the journals that you intend to submit to (very important)
  • Revise your 1st to "n" draft
    • Order to work on: Case, Learning objectives, Introduction/Background, Discussion, Conclusion and Take home points, Abstract, Title
    • Revise for (in this order): 1. Essence, content 2. Order and flow 3. Consistency 4. Grammar, English 5. Manuscript requirements
    • Ask others to review your manuscript (variety of people with different strengths)
    • Read other vignettes especially those from the journal you might submit to
  • Set a deadline for submission
    • Save each draft
    • Don't delete paragraphs (copy them at the end; you may need them later)
  • Develop writing schedule that suits you best
    • 30–60 minutes daily
    • Blocks of time
    • Early vs. late
  • Get ideas down; free-write
  • Brainstorm with co-authors
  • Draw pictures/flowgrams
  • Type with screen off
  • Type and don't read
  • Don't revise while you type initial drafts
  • Avoid perfection (initially)
  • Good English is a must. Great cases poorly written make the editors work VERY difficult
  • Make teaching points clear
  • Avoid jargon and define abbreviations
  • Use same tense verbs throughout, avoid misspellings, appropriate sentence and paragraph length etc
  • Must have proof of diagnosis without a doubt
  • Brainstorm/ Discuss with peers, authors, experts. Identify unique teaching points and determine if case worth publishing
  • Type of cases
    • Great cases are VERY PUBLISHABLE! (assists clinicians make a diagnosis – patient does well). The "wow" factor
    • Interesting cases are OK (nice reminders for clinicians)
    • "The only case described of the most unusual manifestation of a rare disorder" (NO!)