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Year : 2017  |  Volume : 18  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 104-105  

Guidelines to writing a clinical case report

Date of Web Publication8-Nov-2017

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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/1995-705X.217857

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How to cite this article:
. Guidelines to writing a clinical case report. Heart Views 2017;18:104-5

How to cite this URL:
. Guidelines to writing a clinical case report. Heart Views [serial online] 2017 [cited 2023 Dec 4];18:104-5. Available from: https://www.heartviews.org/text.asp?2017/18/3/104/217857

   What is a Clinical Case Report? Top

A case report is a detailed report of the symptoms, signs, diagnosis, treatment, and follow-up of an individual patient. Case reports usually describe an unusual or novel occurrence and as such, remain one of the cornerstones of medical progress and provide many new ideas in medicine. Some reports contain an extensive review of the relevant literature on the topic. The case report is a rapid short communication between busy clinicians who may not have time or resources to conduct large scale research.

   What are the Reasons for Publishing a Case Report? Top

The most common reasons for publishing a case are the following: 1) an unexpected association between diseases or symptoms; 2) an unexpected event in the course observing or treating a patient; 3) findings that shed new light on the possible pathogenesis of a disease or an adverse effect; 4) unique or rare features of a disease; 5) unique therapeutic approaches; variation of anatomical structures.

Most journals publish case reports that deal with one or more of the following:

  • Unusual observations
  • Adverse response to therapies
  • Unusual combination of conditions leading to confusion
  • Illustration of a new theory
  • Question regarding a current theory
  • Personal impact.

   Structure of a Case Report Top

Different journals have slightly different formats for case reports. It is always a good idea to read some of the target jiurnals case reports to get a general idea of the sequence and format.

In general, all case reports include the following components: an abstract, an introduction, a case, and a discussion. Some journals might require literature review.


The abstract should summarize the case, the problem it addresses, and the message it conveys. Abstracts of case studies are usually very short, preferably not more than 150 words.


The introduction gives a brief overview of the problem that the case addresses, citing relevant literature where necessary. The introduction generally ends with a single sentence describing the patient and the basic condition that he or she is suffering from.


This section provides the details of the case in the following order:

  • Patient description
  • Case history
  • Physical examination results
  • Results of pathological tests and other investigations
  • Treatment plan
  • Expected outcome of the treatment plan
  • Actual outcome.

The author should ensure that all the relevant details are included and unnecessary ones excluded.


This is the most important part of the case report; the part that will convince the journal that the case is publication worthy. This section should start by expanding on what has been said in the introduction, focusing on why the case is noteworthy and the problem that it addresses.

This is followed by a summary of the existing literature on the topic. (If the journal specifies a separate section on literature review, it should be added before the Discussion). This part describes the existing theories and research findings on the key issue in the patient's condition. The review should narrow down to the source of confusion or the main challenge in the case.

Finally, the case report should be connected to the existing literature, mentioning the message that the case conveys. The author should explain whether this corroborates with or detracts from current beliefs about the problem and how this evidence can add value to future clinical practice.


A case report ends with a conclusion or with summary points, depending on the journal's specified format. This section should briefly give readers the key points covered in the case report. Here, the author can give suggestions and recommendations to clinicians, teachers, or researchers. Some journals do not want a separate section for the conclusion: it can then be the concluding paragraph of the Discussion section.

Notes on patient consent

Informed consent in an ethical requirement for most studies involving humans, so before you start writing your case report, take a written consent from the patient as all journals require that you provide it at the time of manuscript submission. In case the patient is a minor, parental consent is required. For adults who are unable to consent to investigation or treatment, consent of closest family members is required.

Patient anonymity is also an important requirement. Remember not to disclose any information that might reveal the identity of the patient. You need to be particularly careful with pictures, and ensure that pictures of the affected area do not reveal the identity of the patient.

   References Top

Volkland D, Iles RL. Guidebook to better medical writing. Washington, DC: Island Press, 1997.  Back to cited text no. 1
Rison RA. A A guide to writing case reports for the Journal of Medical Case Reports and BioMed Central Research Notes. J Med Case Rep. 2013;7:239. Published online 2013 Nov 27. doi: 10.1186/1752-1947-7-239 PMCID: PMC3879062  Back to cited text no. 2

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