5. Understand what’s relevant to include. Although case reports are essentially short stories, it is important to remember that a case report is also an important piece of scientific work. Somebody may pick up your case report and use the information that you presented in order to alter their clinical management. Therefore, there is no room for fanciful embellishments or errors of omission. At the same time, good case reports must be concise enough to avoid incorporating extraneous information. Thus, the challenge of writing a case report is that you have to distill a complex series of events into a compelling narrative without distorting the facts of the case.
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6. Write your introduction and conclusion first. If you read enough case reports, you will recognize that almost all case reports have the same formula for the introduction. It starts with a general explanation of the disease or condition in question, and then quickly narrows down to the knowledge deficit that the case report hopes to address. Following this is the statement of scope: “We further review the pathophysiology, etiology, differential diagnosis, … of this disease.” Conclusions are similarly formulaic, but instead of presenting the problems, the writer simply has to echo the introduction, while reiterating the salient points mentioned in the discussion. Therefore, writing the introduction and conclusion first enables you to acquire low-hanging fruit and start tackling the clinical presentation and discussion sections, which are considerably more variable and difficult to craft.
So should you write a case report? Certainly, if you have time and can expend the effort. It’s a great way to boost your curriculum vitae, improve your program’s reputation and disseminate knowledge. Perhaps the biggest motivator is the sense of pride and accomplishment you obtain when you see all the long hours and hard work poured into this labor of love finally make its way into print.
Bharat Kumar, MD, is a second-year fellow at the University of Iowa pursuing a dual certification pathway in rheumatology and allergy/immunology. Dr. Kumar has a special interest in medical education, journalism and ethics. Follow him on Twitter @BharatKumarMD and check out his website.
How to Submit a Case Report to The Rheumatologist
We are looking for interesting cases that are well written and provide useful teaching points to the reader. To be considered for publication, send an outline of your case presentation to Physician Editor Simon Helfgott via email at email@example.com for consideration.