Retracted publications are a crucial, yet overlooked, issue in the scientific community. The purpose of our study was to assess the prevalence, characteristics, and trends of retracted publications in the field of orthopaedics.
Five databases were utilized to identify retracted publications in orthopaedics. The cited articles were assessed for various characteristics, including reason for retraction, based on the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) guidelines and trends over time.
From 1984 to June 4, 2016, 59 of 229,502 orthopaedic publications were retracted (3 per 10,000 articles). There was a spike in the prevalence (22 of 59) of retracted articles in 2015. When compared with the total number of retracted publications identified through PubMed, the field of orthopaedics represented 1.4% of all retracted publications. The original version of 47 of these 59 retracted publications was still available on the respective journal’s web site; 14 (30%) of these were not noted as having been retracted. The mean time from electronic publication to retraction was 19.4 ± 23.3 months. The mean number of citations of a retracted publication after the date of retraction was 9.3 ± 19.3. Reasons for retraction included plagiarism (32%), misconduct (27%), redundant publication (22%), miscalculation or experimental error (8%), and unethical research (0%); the reason for retraction was not stated for 10% of the publications. There was no correlation between a journal’s impact factor and the mean number of months to retraction (p = 0.564).
While uncommon, the retraction of publications within the field of orthopaedics may be increasing. The most often cited reasons for retraction were plagiarism, misconduct, and redundant publication. Retracted articles continue to be cited in the literature after retraction.
Greater awareness of the COPE guidelines within the orthopaedic community and more efficient means to prevent the citation of retracted articles are needed.