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In medicine, a case report is a detailed report of the diagnosis, treatment, and follow-up of an individual patient. Case reports may contain a demographic profile of the patient, but usually they describe an unusual or novel occurrence.

Types of case reports

Robert Iles notes that most case reports are on one of five topics:

  • An unexpected association between diseases or symptoms.
  • An unexpected event in the course of observing or treating a patient.
  • Findings that shed new light on the possible pathogenesis of a disease or an adverse effect.
  • Unique or rare features of a disease.
  • Unique therapeutic approaches. (Iles 2004)

Usefulness and validity

A case report is a type of anecdotal evidence. As such, it is less scientifically rigorous than controlled clinical data involving a larger sample size. Proponents argue they have value within scientific method:

They permit discovery of new diseases and unexpected effects (adverse or beneficial) as well as the study of mechanisms, and they play an important role in medical education. Case reports and series have a high sensitivity for detecting novelty and therefore remain one of the cornerstones of medical progress; they provide many new ideas in medicine. (Vandenbroucke, 2001)

Famous scientific case reports

Use of term outside science

The term is also used to describe non-scientific reports usually prepared for their educational value.


  • Vandenbroucke JP. In defense of case reports and case series. Ann Intern Med 2001;134(4):330-4. PMID 11182844.
  • Iles RL. Case Reports Guidebook to Better Medical Writing. ISBN 0-9661831-0-X
  • Kidd M. Introducing Journal of Medical Case Reports. [1]