Abstract | Guidelines to Case Report Writing for Naturopathic Doctors

· Abstract, Volume 4

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Case reports play an important role in disseminating information to the medical community. Given the wide variety of naturopathic clinical practice, case reports offer an excellent opportunity to share clinical insights from naturopathic doctors. Typically, unique and rare events or patterns are depicted regarding different aspects of a case, including: symptomatology, pathophysiology, treatment(s), and outcome, including adverse effects. In this paper we elaborate on what a case report is, why one is conducted, and provide a brief set of guidelines on how one is written. We hope to encourage clinicians to write case reports and to submit them for publication. The case report is a well-respected venue for sharing valuable knowledge and generating questions derived from practice. The production of this form of clinically relevant evidence should be actively encouraged within the naturopathic community.

The peer-reviewed medical literature contains articles that cover virtually all topics within medicine including research on therapies used by naturopathic doctors (NDs). The literature is growing at an incredible rate and there is plenty of opportunity for both dedicated researchers and clinicians to participate in this process. Complex studies such as randomized controlled trials, systematic reviews, and large observational trials can be daunting to the practitioner who has little training in research methodology and too little time. The role of the clinician in private practice is critical, however, for the introduction of important clinical information from the ground up. The strength of case reports and case series is primarily in their ability to inject new information into the medical consciousness and to generate hypotheses that can be tested in controlled studies.

Case reports provide a level of evidence that is often a starting point for further research. A classic example is the drastic teratological adverse effect of thalidomide on fetal development. A single case report opened the eyes of the medical community in the late 50s when thalidomide was being touted as an effective treatment for nausea and vomiting of pregnancy. This case report opened a floodgate of responses and the publication of further case reports that quickly led to the drug being pulled from the market (1). Ironically it is through the publication of case reports that thalidomide has been brought back into usage more recently as a treatment for certain dermatological pathologies (2).

Naturopathic medicine incorporates an incredibly wide array of modalities often combined in unique ways. The holistic, individualized and eclectic ‘nature’ of naturopathic medicine makes the case report an ideal place to showcase the benefits and also the potential adverse events that can occur within its bounds. The intent of this article is to provide an overview of a case report, the reasons for writing one, and guidelines for writing and publishing such a report. We hope that this paper offers motivation and some of the tools necessary to carry out this process. The clinician who sees patients regularly is intimately aware of what works in practice. This shared knowledge is a resource that can benefit clinicians, the profession and ultimately our patients. The case report is a well-respected medium that should be encouraged so that valuable information is not limited to a few practitioners, but can be widely disseminated amongst colleagues.

Correspondence to:

Brenda Leung, Boucher Institute of Naturopathic Medicine, #300 – 435 Columbia Street, New Westminster, BC V3L 5N8; 403-955-2798; bleung@ binm.org

Dugald Seely, Department of Research & Clinical Epidemiology, CCNM, 1255 SheppardAveEast,Toronto,ON M2K1E2;416-498-1255×387;dseely@ccnm.edu


case reports, naturopathic medicine, holistic medicine, writing skills, complementary and alternative medicine

Brenda Leung, ND, MSc., Dugald Seely, ND, MSc.