Publishing in the Surgical Arena; Why, How, and Where?
Publication of articles in reputed journals is as critical for surgeons for advancement in their professional fields as for any other scientist. However, publications related to surgical research are fraught with risks and often criticized for lacking rigor in earlier times. However, over time, there has been a paradigm shift toward strictly evidence-based practice, and efforts have been made to improve the quality of surgical research. There are several well-recognized journals today that publish surgery-related research works of various types.
Ideally, it is advised that surgeons should focus on different forms of publications at various stages of their careers depending on their level of expected expertise. Surgeons at the beginning of their careers could focus on publishing Case Reports, Clinical Audits, or Study Protocols to start with. Mid-level experts can start focusing on Randomized Control Trials, Observational Studies, Systematic Reviews, or Experimental Studies depending on their engagements. Very experienced surgeons can diversify into more advanced levels, like lead Articles as thought leaders in their fields or Invited Interviews to showcase their expertise in their field of specialization.
As with any other scientific publication, publications in the surgical arena need to formulate a hypothesis that can be tested, specific aims that can be set as the study endpoints for the research, statistical methods to establish the precision of the results, and broader applicability of the results and their biological relevance.
Some key elements for a proper surgical-related publication are:
Schematic diagrams or schematic representations are critical elements for any serious publication related to surgical procedures. Publications in high-profile, high-impact-factor journals require high-quality research such as randomized trials or systematic reviews in which the schematic review forms a critical component.
Some standard reporting guidelines for different types of studies are
- Consolidated Standards of Reporting Trials (CONSORT) for Randomized control trials;
- Standards for Reporting of Diagnostic Accuracy Studies (STARD) guidelines for publications related to diagnostics accuracy,
- Quality of Reporting of Meta-analyses standards developed by the QUOROM group in the form of flowcharts for reviews and meta-analysis,
- Strengthening the Reporting of Observational Studies in Epidemiology (STROBE) guidelines or the Meta-analyses Of Observational Studies in Epidemiology (MOOSE) standards for studies related to epidemiology.
Meta-analysis refers to a study that combines the results of independent and often pre-published articles by producing a summary and conclusion using a quantitative method. It is often an overview of clinical trials and is not to be confused with a review of the literature. Such studies should be undertaken according to the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) guidelines. Best Evidence Topics (BETS) type of systematic review based on a specific clinical question are also acceptable, especially when meta-analysis is not possible.
The journal of choice to publish is also a critical element for any publication. While reputed traditional publications are often the most sought after, digital publications today offer a quicker and wider outreach as well. Reputed journals have detailed instructions for authors which can be a suitable guide to choose and draft a publication.