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Case reports are a type of radiology research literature. They belong to the class of descriptive studies.
The purpose of a radiology case report is to describe the patient history, clinical course, and imaging for a notable or unusual case. The case may be intended to aid other practitioners in interpretation, but frequently the oddity, rarity, and non-generalisibility of cases are meant more to amuse or entertain the reader.
A case report typically contains:
- a short introduction
- patient history and presentation
- a discussion of the imaging and other relevant interventions
- patient course
In radiology case reports, images from multiple imaging modalities are usually included, and gross pathology or histology is considered an excellent addition.
Case reports are generally considered the easiest and fastest radiology research paper to assemble.
Although debatable, the lack of "generalisibility" of case reports causes them to be regarded as lesser vehicles within research. Many journals will no longer accept case reports, for various reasons.
One disadvantage of case reports is that it may contribute to a type of recall bias in the reader. The attention the reader gives to a vanishingly rare case is held by the mind in a disproportionate regard compared with more common cases. The well-known maxim "an atypical presentation of a common disease is more likely than a typical presentation of a rare disease", is an effort to combat this type of bias.
Other disadvantages of case reports include:
- large numbers of case reports introduce an element of "noise" when searching the literature
- case reports claiming the first presentation of a case often find that they are actually not the first
- journals find that case reports do not get accessed as much as original research (it lowers their "impact factor")
That said, there are some advantages to case reports as well:
- the easier format allows junior researchers a chance to contribute to the literature, and helps them develop their skills
- a few case reports may develop into larger contributions to original research (for instance, in interventional radiology)
- they can be entertaining