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Citing retracted literature: a word of caution
  1. Alessandro De Cassai1,
  2. Francesco Volpe2,
  3. Federico Geraldini1,
  4. Burhan Dost3,
  5. Annalisa Boscolo2 and
  6. Paolo Navalesi1,2
  1. 1 UOC Anesthesia and Intensive Care Unit, Padua University Hospital, Padova, Italy
  2. 2 Department of Medicine, DIMED, Section of Anesthesiology and Intensive Care, University of Padova, Padova, Italy
  3. 3 Ondokuz Mayis University Faculty of Medicine, samsun, Turkey
  1. Correspondence to Dr Alessandro De Cassai, Padua University Hospital, Padova 35127, Italy; alessandro.decassai{at}


Introduction Inappropriate citation of retracted literature is a common problem in the general medical literature. In 2020, more than 2300 articles were retracted, a dramatic increase from 38 in 2000. By exploring a contemporary series of retractions by one research group, we aimed to evaluate if citations of retracted articles is occurring in the area of regional anesthesiology.

Methods Using the Scopus database, we examined the full text of all the articles citing research articles coauthored by an anesthesiologist who had multiple articles retracted in 2022. After excluding the research articles citing non-retracted articles authored by the above mentioned anesthesiologist, we included in our analysis all the articles containing a retracted citation and published after the retraction notice.

Results The search was performed on October 30, 2022, retrieving a total of 121 articles citing the researcher’s work. Among the retrieved articles, 53 correctly cited non-retracted research and 37 were published before the retraction notice. Among the 31 remaining articles, 42 retracted research papers were cited. Twenty-five of the retracted articles were cited in the Discussion section of the manuscripts, 15 in the Introduction section, 1 in the Methods section (description of a technique), and one was cited in a review. No manuscript used the flawed data to calculate the sample size.

Discussion In this contemporary example from the regional anesthesia literature, we identified that citation of retracted work remains a common phenomenon.


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  • Correction notice This article has been corrected since it published Online First. References 7 and 8 have been amended.

  • Contributors ADC is responsible for the overall content as the guarantor.All authors conceptualized, wrote, read, and approved the final draft. AB helped in reviewing the work, editing the draft and adding valuable input to increase the overall scientific value of the paper.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Supplemental material This content has been supplied by the author(s). It has not been vetted by BMJ Publishing Group Limited (BMJ) and may not have been peer-reviewed. Any opinions or recommendations discussed are solely those of the author(s) and are not endorsed by BMJ. BMJ disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on the content. Where the content includes any translated material, BMJ does not warrant the accuracy and reliability of the translations (including but not limited to local regulations, clinical guidelines, terminology, drug names and drug dosages), and is not responsible for any error and/or omissions arising from translation and adaptation or otherwise.