Citing retracted literature: a word of caution

Reg Anesth Pain Med. 2023 Jul;48(7):349-351. doi: 10.1136/rapm-2022-104177. Epub 2023 Jan 17.


Introduction: Inappropriate citation of retracted literature is a common problem in the general medical literature. In 2020, more than 2300 articles were retracted, a dramatic increase from 38 in 2000. By exploring a contemporary series of retractions by one research group, we aimed to evaluate if citations of retracted articles is occurring in the area of regional anesthesiology.

Methods: Using the Scopus database, we examined the full text of all the articles citing research articles coauthored by an anesthesiologist who had multiple articles retracted in 2022. After excluding the research articles citing non-retracted articles authored by the above mentioned anesthesiologist, we included in our analysis all the articles containing a retracted citation and published after the retraction notice.

Results: The search was performed on October 30, 2022, retrieving a total of 121 articles citing the researcher's work. Among the retrieved articles, 53 correctly cited non-retracted research and 37 were published before the retraction notice. Among the 31 remaining articles, 42 retracted research papers were cited. Twenty-five of the retracted articles were cited in the Discussion section of the manuscripts, 15 in the Introduction section, 1 in the Methods section (description of a technique), and one was cited in a review. No manuscript used the flawed data to calculate the sample size.

Discussion: In this contemporary example from the regional anesthesia literature, we identified that citation of retracted work remains a common phenomenon.