A case report is derived from the detailed reporting of events that take place within the context of treating and observing a single patient (i.e. case). The report is an in-depth longitudinal examination that is essentially qualitative in nature although it may well contain quantitative data. A case report is anecdotal in that it provides informal observations that are uncontrolled, not subject to the scientific method, and cannot be independently confirmed. Although such anecdotal evidence is not regarded as strictly scientific, it is often regarded as an invitation to more rigorous scientific study. For example, in an analysis of 47 case reports detailing side effects of drug therapy, 35 were found to be “clearly correct”. Primarily a case report is a way of communicating information to the medical world through the elucidation of unique and characteristic feature(s) of a condition, complications, and adverse effects and benefits of specific interventions. Case reports may also serve as a valuable research and educational tool. Robert Iles notes that most medical case reports consider one of five topics:

1. An unexpected association between diseases or symptoms

2. An unexpected event in the course of observing or treating a patient

3. Findings that shed new light on the possible pathogenesis of a disease or an adverse effect

4. Unique or rare features of a disease

5. Unique therapeutic approaches

Why write a case report?

The objectives for writing a case report are mainly to 1) inform/educate; 2) share new knowledge/insight; and 3) document processes and procedures. Furthermore, within the naturopathic context, case reports can serve as a method for building evidence for naturopathic healthcare practice and expanding our Materia Medica. Having well-written case reports published in a reputable medical journal adds to the credibility of the naturopathic profession. The goal of a case report is to provide information of value to the audience (i.e. interesting and relevant). Information provided in a report should contain unique features about the condition, the treatment, the outcome, and anything else pertinent to the case. A case report differs from a clinical case intake in that a case report is systematic, and includes a greater depth of detail, in-depth analysis, literature support guidelines and conclusions about the findings. Case reports can also provide findings that are hypothesis generating.

As naturopathic doctors, there will likely be a strong desire to maintain a humanistic and holistic approach to care. While called a ‘case’ report, do not lose sight that we are talking about people. After all, we do not treat cases; we treat patients with presenting symptoms. Case reports provide us with a great tool for learning. Thus, case reports should be written about cases with both positive and negative outcomes, with the emphasis being on learning. In fact, as practitioners, we know that we often learn more from the negative cases. Furthermore, by writing a case report, practitioners will likely add to their own knowledge base.