Objective: The number of citations an article receives after its publication reflects its impact on the scientific community. Our purpose was to identify and examine the characteristics of the most frequently cited articles in the field of critical care medicine.
Design: The 74 top-cited articles in critical care journals were identified by a computer search using the database of the Science Citation Index Expanded (SCI-EXPANDED, 1945 to present) and the Web of SCIENCE. The 45 top-cited critical care articles in all other biomedical journals were identified using the database SciSearch (1974 to present) with the key word "Critical Care".
Results: The most cited articles received 3402 and 2860 citations, respectively. The citation classics in critical care journals were published between 1968 and 1999 in six high-impact journals, led by Critical Care Medicine (37 articles), followed by the Journal of Trauma (21), and American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine (9). Seventy articles were original publications, two were reviews or guidelines, and two were editorials. The top 45 classic articles in non-critical care journals were published in 13 different journals, led by the New England Journal of Medicine (11 articles), followed by JAMA and Lancet (6 articles each). The United States of America contributed most of the classic articles. Pathophysiology of the lung, sepsis and scoring systems were the primary focus of classic publications.
Conclusions: Our analysis gives a historical perspective on the scientific progress of critical care medicine and allows for recognition of important advances in this specialty.