Understanding the Value of Case Reports and Studies in the Context of Clinical Research, Research Design, and Evidence-Based Practice

Case reports and studies may be defined as the non-experimental description of an individual or a few of cases in terms of new or unusual presentation of the diseases, an unexpected disease course or pathophysiology, and new effects (either beneficial or detrimental) of existing medications or procedures. Although they suffer from the non-experimental nature and other potential bias and errors, case reports and studies have played and will continue to play an important part in the advancement of medicine. They often serve as "primers" leading to discoveries of new diseases/disease pathophysiology as well as development of new preventive and therapeutic measures. Case reports and case studies are also employed as a platform for the training of medical students and/or resident doctors in scientific writing and critical thinking. Although the significance of case reports and studies in medicine has being recognized since the early stage of development of clinical medicine, their value needs to be appreciated in the context of modern clinical research design and the hierarchy of strength of evidence for guiding patient care. This paper discusses case reports and studies within the big picture of clinical research, research design, and evidence-based practice.

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