Major methods error prompts retraction of lung radiation paper

nmmiOne of the authors of a 2014 case series on lung disease following radiation in Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging is retracting the paper for what the the journal is calling “honest error.” That may be true, but it’s a big error — so big, it’s amazing no one detected it sooner.

The paper was titled “A Case Series of Four Patients With Clinically Significant Radiomicrosphere Pneumonitis After Yttrium-90 Radioembolization from the Perspective of Lung Dosimetry,” and it came from a group in Singapore and Australia.

According to the retraction notice:

Dr. Yung Hsiang Kao, the first author and corresponding author, has retracted this case report due to honest error. The methodology used for this case report was unsuitable for the reporting of incidence rates and therefore does not accurately portray the disease incidence at the institution concerned.

If you’d read the title of the paper, you’d see that it’s a case series of four people. Yes, four people. So how did the authors think four people could be used to calculate the institution-wide incidence rate? Moreover, how did the editors and reviewers?

We have posed several questions about all this to Kao, who is based at the Department of Nuclear Medicine and PET at Singapore General Hospital, as well as one of the co-authors and the journal. For instance, why is Kao the only person named in the notice, and what role, if any, did his co-authors play in the preparation of the manuscript? Assuming the answer to that question is: More than none, we therefore have to conclude that no one on this study, including the editors and reviewers who handled it, knows the difference between a case study and an epidemiological analysis.

Also troubling: Against the guidelines issued by the Committee on Publication Ethics, the retracted paper is no longer available online.

Like Retraction Watch? Consider supporting our growth. You can also follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook, add us to your RSS reader, and sign up on our homepage for an email every time there’s a new post.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.