The Value of Case Reports in Plastic Surgery: An Analysis of 68,444 Articles across Six Major Plastic Surgery Journals

Plast Reconstr Surg Glob Open. 2023 Jun 14;11(6):e5069. doi: 10.1097/GOX.0000000000005069. eCollection 2023 Jun.


Case reports provide a salient contribution to the field of plastic surgery through the timely dissemination of knowledge on previously underreported topics. Once a time-honored hallmark of the surgical literature, the perceived value of case reports has decreased with the ongoing prioritization of higher levels of evidence. In this study, we aimed to assess long-term trends in case report publication rates and discuss the continued merits of case reports in the modern-day landscape.

Methods: A PubMed search was used to identify articles published in six prominent plastic surgery journals since 1980. Articles were separated as case reports versus all other publication types. The total number of articles published by group was tracked, and citation rates were compared across groups. Additionally, the most cited articles from each journal were identified for both groups.

Results: A total of 68,444 articles were included for analysis. In 1980, there were 181 case reports published compared with 413 other articles across all six journals. In 2022, there were 188 case reports published compared with 3343 other articles. When comparing citations per year of case reports versus other article types across all journals since 1980, case reports were found to be cited significantly less frequently (P < 0.001).

Conclusions: Case reports have been published and cited less frequently than other types of literature over the last 42 years. However, despite these trends, they have demonstrated significant historical contributions and provide continued value as an impactful forum for highlighting novel clinical entities.