What’s the hernia? Authors lose surgery paper for miscounting cases

Inguinal hernia

A group of pediatric surgeons in China has lost their 2016 paper on a technique for repairing abdominal defects in children because they apparently had trouble keeping those defects straight. 

The article, “A new technique for extraperitoneal repair of inguinal hernia,” appeared in the Journal of Surgical Research, an Elsevier title. The authors reported that a laparoscopic method of repairing inguinal hernias in children was superior to conventional, open surgery. According to the authors, they had nearly 1,900 patients to prove their point. 

But as the retraction notice indicates, the numbers didn’t add up. 

This article has been retracted at the request of the Editor-in-Chief and authors, as portions of the clinical data used were inaccurate. Specifically, more than 500 cases of the total 1882 cases of hernia patients presented in the paper were actually hydrocele of tunica vaginalis, not hernia. The authors sincerely apologize for these errors.

We emailed the corresponding author, Shi-Qi Liu, of the Northwest Women’s and Children’s Hospital in Xi’an, for comment but have yet to hear back.

Scott LeMaire, the editor of the journal, told us: 

The authors contacted me after identifying that they had made a diagnosis classification error in 500 cases. They did not provide details regarding the cause of the error.  

We asked if this sort of misclassification was surprising. LeMaire responded: 

Because I have no way of knowing how their institutional clinical and research databases are structured and maintained, I can’t comment on whether this would be considered an “easy” mistake to make.

The article, which two review papers cited, according to Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science, does discuss the use of the procedure to treat boys with hydrocele, for which, the authors say, it’s also effective. 

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