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Far from a "second-class" publication, many original observations are first presented as case reports. Like scientific abstracts, the case report abstract is governed by rules that dictate its format and length.
This article will outline the features of a well-written case report abstract and provide an example to emphasize the main features.
Scientific forums have specific rules regarding how the abstract should appear. For ACP, the rules are available on the electronic abstracts portal. Organizers of scientific meetings set explicit limits on the length of abstracts. The most difficult decision to make is whether your case report is worth submitting as an abstract.
Of course, rarity of a condition almost always meets the criterion of worthiness, but few of us have the opportunity to describe something that is completely new.
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Another reason to report a case is the lesson that it teaches. With this in mind, consider presenting a case if it increases awareness of a condition, suggests the proper diagnostic strategy, or demonstrates a more cost-effective approach to management.
Alternatively, a case can be presented because it represents an unusual presentation of a relatively common condition. Other twists include an unusual complication of a disease and its management.
Before you begin writing the abstract, present a quick summary of your case to colleagues or mentors to determine if they agree that the case is worthy of presentation. It is important to contribute something unique, but not if it depends on some trivial variation from previously presented cases.
For example, if it is known that a certain cancer widely metastasizes, it is not worthwhile to report each new site. Similarly, drug reactions often merit a case report, but not if it is simply a report of a drug in a class whose other members are known to cause the same reaction.
Once you have decided to submit a case report abstract, describe it in such a way as to make it interesting, yet conform to the accepted format. The following paragraphs provide suggestions on both style and format.
Title and Author Information: The title is a summary of the abstract itself and should convince the reader that the topic is important, relevant, and innovative. Make the title short, descriptive, and interesting.
Some organizations require a special format for the title, such as all uppercase letters. Be sure to check the instructions. Following the title, include the names of authors followed by their institutional affiliations.
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