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Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

C-section study retracted for being a twin

with 3 comments

doveA group of surgeons in Cairo, Egypt have retracted their 2012 paper in the International Journal of Women’s Health for plagiarism, although that’s not quite what they’re calling it.

Here’s the notice:

The Editor-in-Chief and Publisher of the International Journal of Women’s Health have been alerted by Dr Nadine Sherif, the corresponding author, to unacceptable levels of duplication with a previously published paper: Ali A, Essam A. Abdominoplasty Combined with Cesarean Delivery: Evaluation of the Practice. Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. 2011;35(1):80–86.

It is worth noting that this paper was peer-reviewed by two peer-reviewers and the Editor-in-Chief of the International Journal of Women’s Health before publication. The paper concerned is:

Thabet WN, Hossny AS, Sherif NA. Feasibility of abdominoplasty with Cesarean section. International Journal of Women’s Health. 2012;4:115–121.

Duplication should refer to the republication of one’s own work, not to the repurposing of someone else’s, which is the case here. We’re also not sure what to make of the penultimate sentence. Is the journal — a Dove Medical Press title — blaming the reviewers and the editor-in-chief for failing to detect the misconduct? Or is the point that the deceit was crafty enough to miss trick even the watchful eyes of three trained professionals?

We’ll let our readers judge for themselves. The study has yet to be cited, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge.

Here’s the abstract from the Sherif paper:

Abdominoplasty is an esthetic surgical procedure that restores abdominal contouring. Repeated pregnancies combined with advancing maternal age usually lead to lower abdominal skin redundancy and excess fat accumulation. Delivery via Cesarean section adds weakness to the lower abdominal wall muscles and yields a lower transverse Cesarean scar. Some patients request whether abdominoplasty can be performed with Cesarean section in the same setting, to avoid a future surgery. This study was designed to evaluate the outcome of combined abdominoplasty with Cesarean section. The study included 50 pregnant women from September 2009 to June 2010 with an average follow-up period of 9 months. Nine patients (18%) developed wound infection; three of them (6%) developed wound dehiscence. Six patients (12%) developed lower abdominal skin necrosis; three of them (6%) were treated conservatively and healed by secondary intention, while surgical debridement and secondary sutures were needed in the other three patients (6%). Residual abdominal skin redundancy in nine patients (18%), outward bulging of the abdomen and lack of waist definition in 16 patients (32%), and outward bulging of the umbilicus in twelve patients (24%) were the reported unesthetic results. The results were compared with results of 80 abdominoplasties in nonpregnant women.

And the article by Ali and Essam:

Abdominoplasty is an aesthetic surgical procedure that restores abdominal contouring. Repeated pregnancy usually leads to lower abdominal skin redundancy and excess fat accumulation. Delivery via Cesarean section adds weakness to the lower abdominal wall muscles and yields a lower transverse Cesarean scar. Recently and in some cultures, abdominoplasty is requested at the same time of Cesarean delivery. Those women usually want to get the benefit of undergoing the abdominoplasty combined with Cesarean delivery in the same setting, thus avoiding a future surgery. This study was designed to evaluate the aesthetic outcome of combined abdominoplasty with Cesarean delivery. The study included 50 pregnant women from February 2008 to December 2009 with an average follow up period of 6 months. Nine patients (18%) developed wound infection; three of them (9%) developed wound dehiscence. Six patients (12%) developed lower abdominal skin necrosis; three of them (6%) were treated conservatively and healed by secondary intention, while surgical debridement and secondary sutures were needed in the other three patients (6%). Residual abdominal skin redundancy in 9 patients (18%), outward bulging of the abdomen and lack of waist definition in 16 patients (32%), and outward bulging of the umbilicus in 12 patients (24%) were the reported unaesthetic results. The results were compared with results of 80 abdominoplasties in nonpregnant women. The study concluded that abdominoplasty combined with Cesarean delivery carries a higher incidence of complications and does not give the desired aesthetic outcome. The authors do not recommend this practice.

If we take the journal at its word, and the Sherif manuscript was screened for potential plagiarism, then the editors have a product liability claim on their hands. Any plagiarism detection software that failed to score a strong match with these two articles isn’t worth the silicon it’s written on. On the other hand, if the journal is saying that no one bothered to check, then maybe the readers of the IJWH have a negligence claim.

We’ve attempted to contact the editor of the journal and will update this post if we learn more.

Update 1/31/2012 (10 a.m.): We hear from Angela Jones, of Dove, who had this to say:

The Sherif paper was not screened for plagiarism prior to publication, but, as mentioned, was read by two peer-reviewers and Dr. Al-Chaer, the Editor-in-Chief of the journal.

At the time of this submission to the journal we were in the process of testing the iThenticate plagiarism checking software by CrossCheck. iThenticate started being integrated into our manuscript system in April 2012, and now all papers are run through iThenticate before being peer-reviewed.

As you suggested, running the Sherif paper through iThenticate does bring up a very close match to the original paper and certainly would not have progressed through our system if it was submitted now.

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Written by amarcus41

January 30, 2013 at 11:00 am

3 Responses

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  1. They shot the sheriff, but they did not shoot the deputy. In fairness, the sheriff was asking for it.

    chirality

    January 30, 2013 at 11:16 am

    • Not exactly the same: they were able to introduce an error in the percentage calculation. Brilliant.

      wobble

      January 30, 2013 at 3:04 pm

      • Actually they were able to correct the error made by Ali and Essam, who reported that three patients equaling nine percent of the study population developed wound dehiscence. Three patients out of 50 is six percent as correctly reported by the Sherif abstract, not nine percent.

        However, the outrageous similarity between the two abstracts, in which Sherif and her colleagues advanced the time frame of the study by about 18 months beyond the Ali and Essam paper and kept the rest of the description pretty much the same, is … well, outrageous. Why is the journal coddling these authors by using “duplication” instead of “plagiarism”? I’m glad RW is calling a spade a spade.

        JudyH

        January 30, 2013 at 10:57 pm


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