Case Reports in the Research World: Are they helpful?

Case Reports in Hair Loss: Cautiously Optimistic.


A Case Report is a published medical study which presents a particular finding as it relates to a single patient. Common Examples of Case Reports are:


1.     Reports of a New Diagnostic Finding

For example, a new feature that clinicians might consider to improve their ability to diagnose a particular condition


2.     Reports of a New Treatment

For example,  a new treatment or revised method of using a currently available treatment that improves the way we treat hair loss


3.     Reports of a New Prognostic Finding

For example, a new finding either clinical or through blood tests/biopsy that helps predict the course of a patient’s hair loss


Interpreting the Value of Case Reports: Time is the Best Judge.

Case Reports are wonderful in many ways because they have the potential to stimulate additional research and thinking around the world on a particular subject.  Case Reports can sometimes be the key fuel that triggered additional studies in a particular subject area.

However, case reports need to be interpreted cautiously because the results only apply to a single patient. One can not conclude that the finding will be applicable to all patients. In order to conclude that a case report has widespread applicability,  further large scale studies are needed.

Take for example, the case report of sexual dysfunction from use of topical minoxidil. The study is very interesting. I can not conclude based on this study that topical minoxidil is associated with sexual dysfunction in men. However, it sets us up for further studies in this area and keep me alert to monitor these side effects in patients who use topical minoxidil. In my mind the study is extremely valuable.



Time will tell how any case report will go down in history as a valid or not valid contribution to the medical literature.  Time is ultimately the best judge of case reports.

Dr. Jeff Donovan is a Canadian and US board certified dermatologist specializing exclusively in hair loss. To schedule a consultation, please call the Whistler office at 604.283.1887

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