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In medicine, a case report is a detailed report of the symptoms, signs, diagnosis, treatment, and follow-up of an individual patient. Case reports may contain a demographic profile of the patient, but usually describe an unusual or novel occurrence.

Types of case reports

Most case reports are on one of six topics[1]:

  • An unexpected association between diseases or symptoms.
  • An unexpected event in the course of observing or treating a patient.
  • Findings that shed new light on the possible pathogenesis of a disease or an adverse effect.
  • Unique or rare features of a disease.
  • Unique therapeutic approaches.
  • A positional or quantitative variation of the anatomical structures.

Usefulness and validity

A case report is a type of anecdotal evidence. As such, it is less scientifically rigorous than controlled clinical data involving a larger sample size. Proponents argue that case reports have value within scientific method:

They permit discovery of new diseases and unexpected effects (adverse or beneficial) as well as the study of mechanisms, and they play an important role in medical education. Case reports and series have a high sensitivity for detecting novelty and therefore remain one of the cornerstones of medical progress; they provide many new ideas in medicine. (Vandenbroucke, 2001)

Famous scientific case reports

Publishing case reports

Many international journals will publish case reports, however there are a few that are devoted to publishing case reports alone. Journal of Medical Case Reports [1] and Cases Journal [2] are two such journals, publishing Open Access peer reviewed case reports in all areas of medicine. BMJ Case Reports [3] is an online, peer-reviewed journal publishing cases in all disciplines. Radiology Case Reports is an open-access peer-reviewed journal focusing on medical imaging.

Use of term outside science

The term is also used to describe non-scientific reports usually prepared for their educational value.


  • Vandenbroucke JP. In defense of case reports and case series. Ann Intern Med 2001;134(4):330-4. PMID 11182844.
  • Iles RL. Case Reports Guidebook to Better Medical Writing. ISBN 0-9661831-0-X
  • Kidd M. Introducing Journal of Medical Case Reports. [4]
  • Richardson ML, Chew FS. [5] Radiology Case Reports: A New Peer-Reviewed, Open-Access Journal Specializing in Case Reports. Radiology Case Reports. [Online] 2006;1:1-3.
  • Jenkins D. What shall we do with case reports? [6]
  • Talanow R. [7] A new interactive Radiology journal. Radiology Case. 2007 Dec; 1(1):1-3
  1. Iles 2004

See also