Deborah J Verran, MBChB, MHSM, FRACS
Now that we are in an era where the number of scientific publications is steadily increasing each year any surgeon can be forgiven for asking the question “what can another surgical journal possibly do for me”? Let me take just10 minutes of your time. How often have you been faced with an unusual case, a rare case or a complex case in practice? How often have you then been able to find enough information on similar cases that has satisfied your curiosity as to how other surgeons may have dealt with the issues or more to the point the complications? This is where the publication of case reports along with case series still has a place in the era of evidence-based medicine . Apart from their known scientific value, case reports are also of educational value, provide an avenue for novice researchers to gain experience with publication, and mayalsobe of interest to a wider audience.
It is now understood that the patterns of disease are steadily changing around the world [2,3], with people also living longer in many countries. This leads to new challenges in surgery including for example dealing with older and frailer patients . Then there are the challenges posed by new diagnostic modalities such as genetic testing , along with new therapies such as immunotherapy for cancer . Who would have predicted that modern immunotherapy can lead to devastating pan colitis which on occasion requires surgery? All of this opens up the possibilities of unusual clinical events and/or complications occurring in practice.
Then add in the impact of globalisation and travel where patients with unusual conditions, for example acute abdominal pain from typhoid fever , can potentially present almost anywhere, providing a challenge to surgeons who are unfamiliar with such cases. Some of these unusual scenarios will be recognised and reported upon if the patients are in a prospective trial of a new therapy but many if not the majority of these unusual cases will arise outside of a trial setting. Hence the necessity of reporting via other avenues. This is now even more important in surgery where implantable devices are concerned, noting the recent concerns about adverse outcomes with some implants in particular including stem cells .
Now that we are in the era of so called big data, there are emerging implications for the future publishing of case reports. Data mining of medical case reports is already occurring in some areas [9,10], albeit via online searching combined with manual curation. This in itself may contribute valuable additional information, particularly if patterns or trends of previously unrecognised adverse outcomes can be identified and brought to the attention of a wider audience, in a far timelier manner. Hence, with modern data mining techniques each case report potentially can and eventually will become part of a greater whole.
This ties in to the importance of case reports/series being well written along with the appropriate terminology being used. It is now possible that at some stage in the next 10 years there will be a comprehensive list drawn up of the recommended terms/descriptors required in case reports in order to enable data mining, including via Artificial Intelligence type methods .
On behalf of the Editorial Board I welcome you to this new journal and issue a call for manuscript submissions. Of note the journal is open access with all of the advantages that this brings . The main focus at this stage will be on publishing case reports, case series and interesting images. All manuscripts will need to comply with the guidelines which are available via the website. In addition, it is a requirement that all patients whose cases are being reported on will have consented to the publication of the information along with images related to their particular case, in advance.