How to Write a Case Report in 8 Steps (With Benefits)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published November 6, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Clinicians often publish case reports in medical journals to inform health care professionals about rare disorders, conditions, or complications. It presents an in-depth narrative of a medical case which can facilitate academic research to generate hypotheses and establish methodologies for treatment. Whether you're working in academia or the medical industry, understanding how you can write an effective case report can help you advance your career in medicine. In this article, we examine how to write a case report as a health care professional and explain some benefits of these reports.

How to write a case report in 8 steps

Learning how to write a case report can help you raise awareness of an unusual medical occurrence. Health care professionals typically use these reports as educational tools to complement specific research and discover new approaches to disease identification, treatment planning, drug creation, and experimental therapy. While different medical journals have slight variations in format, case reports often feature an abstract, introduction, case description, discussion, and conclusion. You can follow these eight steps to produce a case report:

1. Do research into case studies

During your medical training or residency, you can start searching for cases to write about that have minimal or no existing research. Disease rarity is vital in presenting a case report that can inspire other medical professionals and researchers. Consider meeting with medical consultants to discover unreported cases you can use as the basis for your report.

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2. Seek professional guidance

While searching for a case to examine, seeking guidance or mentorship from senior health care professionals can be helpful. They can offer advice from personal experience writing case reports and suggest resources to try, such as hospital libraries. Reading through medical literature can provide references for your research. You can also consult senior doctors or supervisors to learn about the most suitable medical journals that accept case reports. This selection is crucial to ensure that it reaches the right audience.

3. Secure patient consent and collect data

Once you select the case for your report, contact the patient and request their consent. Consent is mandatory for most clinical journals and demonstrates good medical practice. You can provide a form for the patient to sign, which grants you access to their medical history and notes. Next, examine radiographs, photographs, slides, test findings, dates, and treatment plans. Conducting multiple interviews with the patient can also help you gain a deeper understanding of their case. With this data collection, you can begin your research and prepare the structure of your report.

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4. Start with an abstract

An abstract summarizes the case you're exploring in your report by discussing its primary problem and purpose. The standard abstract is typically between 150 to 250 words in length. Ensure this paragraph is cohesive and accessible because it forms a reader's first impression of your data. While the abstract comes at the beginning of the report, consider revising it after you have written the rest of your content to ensure it accurately reflects the substance of the report.

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5. Write an introduction

The introduction offers a more detailed overview of the case study and your research. It highlights the rarity of the patient's disease, condition, treatment, or reaction. An effective introduction typically ranges from one to two sentences in length and contains engaging information to make the reader want to continue.

6. Describe the case study

After the introduction, you can describe your report's case in detail. Provide the patient's description, case history, physical examination results, pathological tests and their results, treatment plans, expected outcomes, and actual outcomes. You can present each of these pieces of information in separate paragraphs. Only include relevant details to ensure the reader has a complete understanding of the case. Try to present the facts in a clear narrative structure to make it easier to read.

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7. Include a discussion section

This section is a vital part of your case report because it highlights why medical journals and other health care professionals ought to take notice of your selected case. You can start by describing the objective and value of your report while providing references to medical literature. Discuss the patient's problems, reactions to treatment, and outcome implications in scientific terms. Provide theories about possible causes or experimental therapies. It's helpful for your evidence and discourse to have scientific relevance, so ensure your sources emphasize the case's challenges and distinctiveness.

8. Finish with a conclusion

A conclusion paragraph briefly summarizes the relevant components of a case report. You can provide recommendations or suggestions for other health care professionals or researchers about what to do when encountering these rare conditions or diseases. The goal of this paragraph is to encourage action and reinforce the importance of analyzing this specific case. Some medical journals prefer writers to include the conclusion paragraph in the discussion section.

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The benefits of case reports

After learning about writing a compelling case report, it's valuable to gain a deeper understanding of this document's benefits. Case reports are vital for health care professionals to discover abnormalities, initiate research, and practise their analytical skills. Some case reports can inspire medical progress and highlight real-world consequences of specific procedures or treatments. Here are some benefits of writing a case report:

Increase awareness of rare cases

Case reports typically highlight uncontrolled or unusual clinical findings, illnesses, side effects, and diseases. Their publication in medical journals offers a practical method of sharing unique data with the medical community. This increase in awareness can encourage health care researchers to launch formal investigations or facilitate the detection of similar cases.

Sometimes, illnesses are so uncommon that it's challenging to gather enough patients to conduct clinical trials. Case reports can help researchers analyze treatment plans for these uncommon diseases. They present a detailed document describing the outcomes of certain drugs or procedures, which allows medical professionals to decide how to proceed in a way that benefits the patient.

Launch formal medical research

Medical researchers may find inspiration to launch formal investigations owing to one or several case reports. By highlighting rarities, health care professionals can form connections and discover repeat patterns in treatment plans, drug testing, and other medical procedures. For example, several case reports may describe a drug's side effects in a specific demographic group. These details can help researchers generate hypotheses and investigate what elements of that drug are causing these unexpected outcomes.

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Use as educational tools

Case reports are a practical method for teaching and learning. These documents provide medical staff with historical context and patient history, allowing them to understand every component of an unusual disease or condition. Unlike some case studies in medical textbooks, case reports feature daily clinical information, including disease management, diagnostic reasoning, patient testimony, and follow-up accounts. This data can help you to advance your medical education and learn how to treat a rare disorder or unexpected side effect.

Quicker publishing

Medical journals can usually publish case reports quicker than other formal medical studies. This is because they are typically shorter than extensive pieces of research. Faster publication benefits the medical community by allowing professionals to know about a specific outcome or disease immediately. For example, suppose a new drug is causing adverse effects on pregnant people. A case report informs hospitals and doctors to take preventive measures with this specific drug, which may save lives.

Impress prospective employers

A published case report is an asset for your resume and career development. It demonstrates your ability to research and highlight a relevant case study for medical progress. You can describe a case report during your interview and discuss its impact. Prospective employers may consider this experience beneficial to their health care organization.

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Enhance research abilities

Writing case reports is a practical method of improving your research skills. It encourages you to investigate different cases, analyze their merits, and determine whether they contain helpful information for the medical community. This process also allows you to learn about various medical journals and their practices while gaining hands-on experience regarding patient consent and history. Writing a case report can also prepare you to participate in formal medical investigations.

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