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  • Research
  • Open Access

The 100 most cited articles in ectopic pregnancy: a bibliometric analysis

  • 1,
  • 2,
  • 1,
  • 1,
  • 1,
  • 3 and
  • 1Email author
Contributed equally
SpringerPlus20165:1815

https://doi.org/10.1186/s40064-016-3503-8

  • Received: 5 March 2016
  • Accepted: 10 October 2016
  • Published:

Abstract

Ectopic pregnancy (EP) remains a major gynecological emergency and is a cause of morbidity or even mortality in women. As a consequence, top citation analysis of EP research in database of the Science Citation Index Expanded is needed to assess the publication trends of leading countries/territories and institutes as well as the research hotspots of EP. A total of 4881 articles relevant to EP were retrieved in the database of the Science Citation Index Expanded from 1965 to present, in which the 100 top-cited articles were selected for further analysis. The number of citations ranged from 81 to 482 (131.57 ± 69.76), with a time span of 40 years between 1969 and 2009. These citation classics came from 14 countries, and 65 of the articles came from the United States. Yale University in Connecticut led the list of classics with six papers. The 100 top-cited articles were published in 32 journals, in which the journal of Fertility and Sterility published the most (23 papers). Stovall TG and Ling FW published the highest number of studies (6 papers each). Articles that originated in the United States and that were published in high-impact journals were most likely to be cited in the field of EP research. Bibliometric analysis was used to provide a historical perspective on the progress in EP research over the past 50 years. Citation analysis is a feasible tool to comprehensively recognize the advances of EP research in the past and future research.

Keywords

  • Citation analysis
  • Bibliometrics
  • Ectopic pregnancy

Background

Ectopic pregnancy (EP), which is the implantation of a fertilized ovum outside the endometrial cavity and has an approximate incidence of 1.5–2.0 % in all pregnancies, is a potentially life-threatening disease (Chang et al. 2003). With increasing in vitro fertilization (IVF) procedures, there is an increase of Eps (Ramer et al. 2016; Sisti et al. 2016). Currently, it remains a major problem in contemporary gynecological practice and continues to be an important cause of morbidity and mortality in women. EP is also a clinical manifestation of poor fertility prognosis and adverse outcomes in subsequent pregnancies (Musa et al. 2009). Although oviduct inflammation, the history of tubal pregnancy and tubal surgery, the application of assisted reproductive technology (ART) and so on are known as the pathogenesis of EP by now. However, the definite mechanism of it is still missing. Therefore, many specialists and researchers have focused their efforts on EP to gain a better understanding of the mechanism of this disease and develop new methods for the diagnosis and treatment of this issue.

Citation is an author’s reference to a previous work that acknowledges the relevance of that work in contributing to the completion of the author’s current paper (Kavanagh et al. 2013). While number of citations is not the only factor in determining an article’s relevance, it is arguably our best marker for articles that have been influential in the field (Baldwin et al. 2013). Citation analysis involves ranking and evaluating an article or journal based on the frequency of citation that it receives (Murray et al. 2012). The frequency of citation has significant implications for authors, journals, institutions and even nations (Moed 2009). Citation analysis is the bibliometric process that is used to examine the citation history of a particular paper by examining the citations attributed to that publication. Usually, it involves ranking and evaluating an article or journal based on the number of citations that it has received.

To systematically review the citation classics dedicated to EP, we evaluated the current literature for the 100 most frequently cited articles in an attempt to provide a bibliometric perspective of the progress in this field. To our knowledge, this is the first study to quantify and analyze the most frequently cited papers to review the history of EP.

Methods

The database (Web of Science Expanded citation index) of the Institute for Scientific Information (ISI) from 1965 to 2015 was searched using the keyword “ectopic pregnanc*” to identify the citation classics. This database includes peer-reviewed publications indexed from more than 10,000 high-impact journals worldwide. Only papers that had been published as an “article” were selected for further study and no language restriction criteria was applied in our study. Each article in the top 100 cited list was reviewed, and the information including number of citations, authorship, journals, institution and country of origin, and year of publication was retrieved. Country of origin was defined based on the first author’s address. The addresses of other authors were noted to determine whether international collaboration was involved.

Results

The 100 most frequently cited articles related to EP were identified using Science Citation Index Expanded (SCI-expanded). A total of 6872 papers were identified in the period from 1965 to 2015, with 4881 classified as “article”, 384 classified as “review”, 499 classified as “letter”, 245 classified as “proceeding paper”, 410 classified as “meeting abstract”; the remaining were classified as “other”. The selection process of the articles is shown in Fig. 1, and the top 100 cited articles composing our final list are shown in Table 1. By reading the abstract or full text of the original 100 most cited articles, a total of 15 articles like the 15th paper written by Gaydos et al. (1998) and the 25th one contributed by Conway et al. (1997) were eliminated because of its minor relevance to EP.
Fig. 1
Fig. 1

Flowchart of the selection process for the 100 top-cited articles in ectopic pregnancy

Table 1

List of the 100 top-cited articles in ectopic pregnancy

Rank

Articles

Citation times

1

Kalman S, Mitchell W, Marathe R, et al.: Comparative genomes of Chlamydia pneumoniae and C. trachomatis. Nat Genet. 1999. 21(4):385–389

482

2

Westroml L, Joesoef R, Reynolds G, et al.: Pelvic inflammatory disease and fertility—a cohort study of 1844 women with laparoscopically verified disease and 657 control women with normal laparoscopic results. Sex Transm Dis. 1992. 19(4):185–192

384

3

Cates W, Wasserheit JN: Genital chlamydial infections—epidemiology and reproductive sequelae. Am J Obstet Gynecol.1991. 164(6):1771–1781

359

4

Miller WC, Ford CA, Morris M, et al.: Prevalence of chlamydial and gonococcal infections among young adults in the United States. JAMA—J Am Med Assoc. 2004. 291(18):2229–2236

321

5

Andersen AMN, Wohlfahrt J, Christens P, et al.: Maternal age and fetal loss: population based register linkage study. Brit Med J. 2000. 320(7251):1708–1712

317

6

Stovall TG, Ling FW: Single-dose methotrexate—an expanded clinical-trial. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 1993. 168(6):1759–1765

251

7

Kadar N, Caldwell BV, Romero R: A method of screening for ectopic pregnancy and its indications. Obstet Gynecol. 1981. 58(2):162–166

242

8

Kadar N, Devore G, Romero R: Discriminatory Hcg zone—its use in the sonographic evaluation for ectopic pregnancy. Obstet Gynecol. 1981. 58(2):156–161

235

9

Pouly JL, Mahnes H, Mage G, et al.: Conservative laparoscopic treatment of 321 ectopic pregnancies. Fertil Steril. 1986. 46(6):1093–1097

230

10

Peyron R, Aubeny E, Targosz V, et al.: Early termination of pregnancy with mifepristone (Ru-486) and the orally active prostaglandin misoprostol. New Engl J Med. 1993. 328(21):1509–1513

224

11

Westrom L, Bengtsson LP, Mardh PA: Incidence, trends, and risks of ectopic pregnancy in a population of women. Brit Med J. 1981. 282(6257):15–18

219

12

Lundorff P, Hahlin M, Kallfelt B, et al.: Adhesion formation after laparoscopic surgery in tubal pregnancy—a randomized trial versus laparotomy. Fertil Steril. 1991. 55(5):911–915

201

13

Breen JL: A 21 year survey of 654 ectopic pregnancies. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 1970. 106(7):1004

197

14

Jurkovic D, Hillaby K, Woelfer B, et al.: First-trimester diagnosis and management of pregnancies implanted into the lower uterine segment cesarean section scar. Ultrasound Obst Gynecol. 2003. 21(3):220–227

182

15

Stovall TG, Ling FW, Gray LA: Single-dose methotrexate for treatment of ectopic pregnancy. Obstet Gynecol. 1991. 77(5):754–757

172

16

Bruhat MA, Manhes H, Mage G, et al.: Treatment of ectopic pregnancy by means of laparoscopy. Fertil Steril. 1980. 33(4):411–414

169

17

Castles A, Adams EK, Melvin CL, et al.: Effects of smoking during pregnancy—five meta-analyses. Am Journal Prev Med. 1999. 16(3):208–215

167

18

Stovall TG, Ling FW, Gray LA, et al.: Methotrexate treatment of unruptured ectopic pregnancy—a report of 100 cases. Obstet Gynecol. 1991. 77(5):749–753

162

19

Peipert JF: Genital chlamydial infections. New Engl J Med. 2003. 349(25):2424–2430

156

20

Balen AH, Tan SL, Macdougall J, et al.: Miscarriage rates following invitro fertilization are increased in women with polycystic ovaries and reduced by pituitary desensitization with buserelin. Hum Reprod. 1993. 8(6):959–964

156

21

Beral V: Epidemiological study of recent trends in ectopic pregnancy. Brit J Obstet Gynaec. 1975. 82(10):775–782

155

22

Ory SJ, Villanueva AL, Sand PK, et al.: Conservative treatment of ectopic pregnancy with methotrexate. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 1986. 154(6):1299–1306

152

23

Hillis SD, Owens LM, Marchbanks PA, et al.: Recurrent chlamydial infections increase the risks of hospitalization for ectopic pregnancy and pelvic inflammatory disease. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 1997. 176(1):103–107

151

24

Hillis SD, Joesoef R, Marchbanks PA, et al.: Delayed care of pelvic inflammatory disease as a risk factor for impaired fertility. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 1993. 168(5):1503–1509

148

25

Seow KM, Huang LW, Lin YH, et al.: Cesarean scar pregnancy: issues in management. Ultrasound Obst Gyn. 2004. 23(3):L247–253

143

26

Ankum WM, Mol BWJ, Vander Veen F, et al.: Risk factors for ectopic pregnancy: a meta-analysis. Fertil Steril. 1996. 65(6):1093–1099

142

27

Lapensee L, Paquette Y, Bleau G: Allelic polymorphism and chromosomal localization of the human oviductin gene (Muc9). Fertil Steril. 1997. 68(4):702–708

137

28

Chow JM, Yonekura ML, Richwald GA, et al.: The association between Chlamydia trachomatis and ectopic pregnancy—a matched-pair, case–control study. JAMA—J Am Med Assoc. 1990. 263(23):3164–3167

137

29

Ness RB, Soper DE, Holley RL, et al.: Effectiveness of inpatient and outpatient treatment strategies for women with pelvic inflammatory disease: results from the pelvic inflammatory disease evaluation and clinical health (PEACH) randomized trial. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2002. 186(5):929–937

132

30

Hemminki E, Merilainen J: Long-term effects of cesarean sections: ectopic pregnancies and placental problems. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 1996. 174(5):1569–1574

132

31

Lipscomb GH, McCord ML, Stovall TG, et al.: Predictors of success of methotrexate treatment in women with tubal ectopic pregnancies. New Engl J Med. 1999. 341(26):1974–1978

130

32

Egger M, Low N, Smith GD, et al.: Screening for chlamydial infections and the risk of ectopic pregnancy in a county in Sweden: ecological analysis. Brit Med J. 1998. 316(7147):1776–1780

130

33

Cacciatore B. Stenman UH. Ylostalo P: Diagnosis of ectopic pregnancy by vaginal ultrasonography in combination with a discriminatory serum Hcg level of 1000-Iu/1 (Irp). Brit J Obstet Gynaec. 1990. 97(10):904–908

129

34

Sauer MV, Gorrill MJ, Rodi IA, et al.: Nonsurgical management of unruptured ectopic pregnancy—an extended clinical-trial. Fertil Steril. 1987. 48(5):752–755

129

35

Wald NJ, Hackshaw AK: Cigarette smoking: an epidemiological overview. Brit Med Bull. 1996. 52(1):3–11

126

36

Decherney A, Kase N: Conservative surgical management of unruptured ectopic pregnancy. Obstet Gynecol. 1979. 54(4):451–455

124

37

Whittington WLH, Kent C, Kissinger P, et al.: Determinants of persistent and recurrent Chlamydia trachomatis infection in young women—results of a multicenter cohort study. Sex Transm Dis. 2001. 28(2):117–123

123

38

Craven CM, Morgan T, Ward K: Decidual spiral artery remodelling begins before cellular interaction with cytotrophoblasts. Placenta. 1998. 19(4):241–252

122

39

Stovall TG, Ling FW, Buster JE: Outpatient chemotherapy of unruptured ectopic pregnancy. Fertil Steril. 1989. 51(3):435–438

121

40

Lau S, Tulandi T: Conservative medical and surgical management of interstitial ectopic pregnancy. Fertil Steril. 1999. 72(2):207–215

117

41

Schoolcraft WB, Surrey ES, Gardner DK: Embryo transfer: techniques and variables affecting success. Fertil Steril. 2001. 76(5):863–870

115

42

Rubin GL, Peterson HB, Dorfman SF, et al.: Ectopic pregnancy in the United-States—1970 through 1978. JAMA-J Am Med Assoc. 1983. 249(13):1725–1729

115

43

Ostergaard L, andersen B, Moller JK, et al.: Home sampling versus conventional swab sampling for screening of Chlamydia trachomatis in women: a cluster-randomized 1-year follow-up study. Clin Infect Dis. 2000. 31(4):951–957

113

44

Bouyer J, Coste J, Shojaei T, et al.: Risk factors for ectopic pregnancy: a comprehensive analysis based on a large case–control, population-based study in France. Am J Epidemiol. 2003. 157(3):185–194

112

45

Diav-Citrin O, Park YH, Veerasuntharam G, et al.: The safety of mesalamine in human pregnancy: a prospective controlled cohort study. Gastroenterology. 1998. 114(1):23–28

112

46

Godin PA, Bassil S, Donnez J: An ectopic pregnancy developing in a previous caesarian section scar. Fertil Steril. 1997. 67(2):398–400

111

47

Rogers JM: Tobacco and pregnancy. Reprod Toxicol. 2009. 28(2):152–160

107

48

Rein DB, Kassler WJ, Irwin KL, et al.: Direct medical cost of pelvic inflammatory disease and its sequelae: decreasing, but still substantial. Obstet Gynecol. 2000. 95(3):397–402

107

49

Barnhart K, Mennuti MT, Benjamin I, et al.: Prompt diagnosis of ectopic pregnancy in an emergency department setting. Obstet Gynecol. 1994. 84(6);1010–1015

106

50

Coulam CB: Epidemiology of recurrent spontaneous-abortion. Am J Reprod Immunol. 1991. 26(1):23–27

106

51

Decherney AH, Diamond MP: Laparoscopic salpingostomy for ectopic pregnancy. Obstet Gynecol. 1987. 70(6):948–950

106

52

Hausknecht RU: Methotrexate and misoprostol to terminate early-pregnancy. New Engl J Med. 1995. 333(9):537–540

105

53

Ory HW: Ectopic pregnancy and intrauterine contraceptive devices—new perspectives. Obstet Gynecol.1981. 57(2):137–144

104

54

Timortritsch IE, Monteagudo A, Matera C, et al.: Sonographic evolution of cornual pregnancies treated without surgery. Obstet Gynecol. 1992. 79(6):1044–1049

103

55

Fernandez H, Rainhorn JD, Papiernik E, Bellet D, Frydman R: Spontaneous resolution of ectopic pregnancy. Obstet Gynecol. 1988. 71(2):171–174

103

56

Asplin BR, Rhodes KV, Levy H, et al.: Insurance status and access to urgent ambulatory care follow-up appointments. JAMA—J Am Med Assoc. 2005. 294(10):1248–1254

101

57

Critchley HOD, Jones RL, Lea RG, et al.: Role of inflammatory mediators in human endometrium during progesterone withdrawal and early pregnancy. J Clin Endocr Metab. 1999. 84(1):240–248

101

58

Frates MC, Benson CB, Doubilet PM, et al.: Cervical ectopic pregnancy—results of conservative treatment. Radiology. 1994. 191(3):773–775

100

59

Marchbanks PA, Annegers JF, Coulam CB, et al.: Risk-factors for ectopic pregnancy—a population-based study. JAMA-J Am Med Assoc. 1988. 259(12):1823–1827

99

60

Bouyer J, Coste J, Fernandez H, et al.: Sites of ectopic pregnancy: a 10 year population-based study of 1800 cases. Hum Reprod. 2002. 17(12):3224–3230

98

61

Brunham RC, Binns B, Mcdowell J, et al.: Chlamydia trachomatis infection in women with ectopic pregnancy. Obstet Gynecol. 1986. 67(5):722–726

97

62

Kobayash. M, Hellman LM, Fillisti LP: Ultrasound—an aid in diagnosis of ectopic pregnancy. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 1969. 103(8):1131

96

63

Pisarska MD, Carson SA, Buster JE: Ectopic pregnancy. Lancet. 1998. 351(9109):1115–1120

95

64

Bradley WG, Fiske CE, Filly RA: The double sac sign of early intrauterine pregnancy—use in exclusion of ectopic pregnancy. Radiology. 1982. 143(1):223–226

95

65

Glock JL, Johnson JV, Brumsted JR: Efficacy and safety of single-dose systemic methotrexate in the treatment of ectopic pregnancy. Fertil Steril. 1994. 62(4):716–721

94

66

Brown DL, Doubilet PM: Transvaginal sonography for diagnosing ectopic pregnancy—positivity criteria and performance-characteristics. J Ultras Med. 1994. 13(4):259–266

94

67

Schwartz RO, Dipietro DL: Beta-HCG as a diagnostic-aid for suspected ectopic pregnancy. Obstet Gynecol. 1980. 56(2):197–203

94

68

Garcia AJ, Aubert JM, Sama J, et al.: Expectant management of presumed ectopic pregnancies. Fertil Steril. 1987. 48(3):395–400

93

69

Aral SO, Mosher WD, Cates W: Vaginal douching among women of reproductive age in the United-States—1988. Am J Public Health. 1992. 82(2):210–214

92

70

Fleischer AC, Pennell RG, Mckee MS, et al.: Ectopic pregnancy—features at transvaginal sonography. Radiology. 1990. 174(2):375–378

92

71

Logerotlebrun H, Demouzon J, Bachelot A, et al.: Pregnancies and births resulting from in-vitro fertilization—French National Registry, analysis of data 1986–1990. Fertil Steril. 1995. 64(4):746–756

91

72

Marcus SF, Brinsden PR: Analysis of the incidence and risk-factors associated with ectopic pregnancy following in-vitro fertilization and embryo-transfer. Hum Reprod. 1995. 10(1):199–203

91

73

Brumsted J, Kessler C, Gibson C, et al.: A comparison of laparoscopy and laparotomy for the treatment of ectopic pregnancy. Obstet Gynecol. 1988. 71(6):889–892

91

74

Romero R, Kadar N, Jeanty P, et al.: Diagnosis of ectopic pregnancy—value of the discriminatory human chorionic-gonadotropin zone. Obstet Gynecol. 1985. 66(3):357–360

91

75

Decherney AH, Maheaux R, Naftolin F: Salpingostomy for ectopic pregnancy in the sole patent oviduct—reproductive outcome. Fertil Steril. 1982. 37(5):619–622

91

76

Barnhart KT: Ectopic pregnancy. New Engl J Med. 2009. 361(4):379–387

90

77

Brenner PF, Roy S, Mishell DR: Ectopic pregnancy—study of 300 consecutive surgically treated cases. JAMA-J Am Med Assoc. 1980. 243(7):673–676

90

78

Marks WM, Filly RA, Callen PW, et al.: Decidual cast of ectopic pregnancy—confusing ultrasonographic appearance. Radiology. 1979. 133(2):451–454

90

79

Kaplan BC, Dart RG, Moskos M, et al.: Ectopic pregnancy: prospective study with improved diagnostic accuracy. Ann Emerg Med. 1996. 28(1):10–17

89

80

Murphy AA, Kettel LM, Nager CW, et al.: Operative laparoscopy versus laparotomy for the management of ectopic pregnancy—a prospective trial. Fertil Steril. 1992. 57(6):1180–1185

89

81

Sherman D, Langer R, Sadovsky G, et al.: Improved fertility following ectopic pregnancy. Fertil Steril. 1982. 37(4):497–502

89

82

Schumacher A, Brachwitz N, Sohr S, et al.: Human chorionic gonadotropin attracts regulatory T cells into the fetal-maternal interface during early human pregnancy. J Immunol. 2009. 182(9):5488–5497

88

83

Mol Bwj, Lijmer JG, Ankum WM, et al.: The accuracy of single serum progesterone measurement in the diagnosis of ectopic pregnancy: a meta-analysis. Hum Reprod. 1998. 13(11):3220–3227

88

84

Zhang J, Thomas AG, Leybovich E: Vaginal douching and adverse health effects: a meta-analysis. Am J Public Health. 1997. 87(7):1207–1211

86

85

VanVoorhis WC, Barret LK, Sweeney YTC, et al.: Repeated Chlamydia trachomatis infection of Macaca nemestrina fallopian tubes produces a Th1-like cytokine response associated with fibrosis and scarring. Infect Immun. 1997. 65(6):2175–2182

86

86

Cheginl N, Flanders KC: Presence of transforming growth-factor-beta and their selective cellular-localization in human ovarian tissue of various reproductive stages. Endocrinology. 1992. 130(3):1707–1715

86

87

Yovich JL, Turner SR, Murphy AJ: Embryo transfer technique as cause of ectopic pregnancies in invitro fertilization. Fertil Steril. 1985. 44(3):318–321

86

88

Peterson HB, Xia ZS, Hughes JM, et al.: The risk of ectopic pregnancy after tubal sterilization. New Engl J Med. 1997. 336(11):762–767

85

89

Mage G, Pouly JL, Dejoliniere JB, et al.: A preoperative classification to predict the intrauterine and ectopic pregnancy rates after distal tubal microsurgery. Fertil Steril. 1986. 46(5):807–810

85

90

Fatum M, Rojansky N: Laparoscopic surgery during pregnancy. Obstet Gynecol Surv. 2001. 56(1):50–59

84

91

Fernandez H, Benifla JL, Lelaidier C, et al.: Methotrexate treatment of ectopic pregnancy—100 cases treated by primary transvaginal injection under sonographic control. Fertil Steril. 1993. 59(4):773–777

84

92

Nyberg DA, Mack LA, Jeffrey RB, et al.: Endovaginal sonographic evaluation of ectopic pregnancy—a prospective-study. Am J Roentgenol. 1987. 149(6):1181–1186

83

93

Decherney AH, Romero R, Naftolin, F: Surgical-management of unruptured ectopic pregnancy. Fertil Steril. 1981. 35(1):21–24

83

94

Bustillo M, Yee B: Assisted reproductive technology in the United States: 1996 results generated from the American Society for Reproductive Medicine/Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology Registry. Fertil Steril. 1999. 71(5):798–807

82

95

Lipscomb GH, Bran D, Mccord ML, et al.: Analysis of three hundred fifteen ectopic pregnancies treated with single-dose methotrexate. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 1998. 178(6):1354–1356

82

96

Condous G, Okaro E, Khalid A, et al.: The accuracy of transvaginal ultrasonography for the diagnosis of ectopic pregnancy prior to surgery. Hum Reprod. 2005. 20(5):1404–1409

81

97

Wang HB, Guo Y, Wang, DZ et al.: Aberrant cannabinoid signaling impairs oviductal transport of embryos. Nat Med. 2004. 10(10):1074–1080

81

98

Zeitz J: Assisted reproductive technology in the United States and Canada: 1995 results generated from the American Society for Reproductive Medicine Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology Registry. Fertil Steril. 1998. 69(3):389–398

81

99

Mccord ML, Muram D, Buster, JE et al.: Single serum progesterone as a screen for ectopic pregnancy: exchanging specificity and sensitivity to obtain optimal test performance. Fertil Steril. 1996. 66(4):513–516

81

100

Kurman RJ: The morphology, biology, and pathology of intermediate trophoblast—a look back to the present. Hum Pathol. 1991. 22(9):847–855

81

The most cited paper was contributed by Kalman et al. (1999) with 482 citations, whereas the 100th paper by Chegini and Flanders (1992) was cited 86 times. The mean number of citations was 132 (SD 69.76). The oldest citation classic on the list was ranked at position 62 and was published in 1969 by Kobayashi et al. (1969) (96 citations), and the most recent paper was at position 82 and was published in 2009 (88 citations) by Schumacher et al. (2009). In analyzing the list by publishing decade, most of the top 100 papers were published in the 1990s, and no top 100 paper was published in the 2010s (Fig. 2).
Fig. 2
Fig. 2

Flowchart of the number of the 100 top-cited papers in ectopic pregnancy per year

Several authors published multiple papers in the top 100 list (Fig. 3; Table 2). Both Stovall TG and Ling FW, who published six papers, appeared at the top of the list, followed by Decherney AH, Pouly JL and Buster JE with five papers. In regard to the first author and corresponding author, Stovall TG appeared at the top of the list with four papers, followed by Decherney AH also with four first author papers, in which Barnhart was the corresponding author as well.
Fig. 3
Fig. 3

The top-ranked authors who published the 100 top-cited papers in ectopic pregnancy

Table 2

List of authors who published more than 3 of most 100 cited papers in ectopic pregnancy

Rank

Author

No. of articles

First author

Corresponding author

1

Stovall TG

6

4

4

2

Ling FW

6

0

0

3

Decherney AH

5

4

4

4

Pouly JL

5

1

0

5

Buster JE

5

0

0

6

Fernandez H

4

2

1

7

Romero R

4

2

1

8

Cates W

4

1

1

9

Kadar N

3

2

2

10

Westrom L

3

2

2

11

Bruhat MA

3

1

3

12

Marchbanks PA

3

1

1

13

Mccord ML

3

1

1

14

Mage G

3

1

0

15

Carson SA

3

0

0

16

Laing FC

3

0

0

The first authors with more articles took precedence and then the corresponding author and at last the initials according to the order of the alphabet in the situation of equal numbers of articles

The journal of Fertility and Sterility published the highest number of papers (23), followed closely by Obstetrics and Gynecology (15), American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology (10), New England Journal of Medicine (6) and JAMA—Journal of The American Medical Association (6). The detailed results are shown in Table 3.
Table 3

List of journals that published more than 2 of top 100 cited articles in ectopic pregnancy

Rank

Journal

No. of articles

Total citation

Impact factor

1

Fertil Steril

23

2601

4.59

2

Obstet Gynecol

15

1937

5.175

3

Am J Obstet Gynecol

10

1700

4.704

4

JAMA-J Am Med Assoc

6

863

35.289

5

New Engl J Med

6

790

55.873

6

Hum Reprod

5

514

4.569

7

Radiology

4

377

6.867

8

Brit Med J

3

666

17.445

9

Sex Transm Dis

2

507

2.842

10

Ultrasound Obst Gyn

2

325

3.853

11

Brit J Obstet Gynaec

2

284

3.448

12

Am J Public Health

2

178

4.552

The journals with more total citation took precedence in the situation of equal numbers of articles

Of the top 100 articles, 65 papers were from the United States, followed by the United Kingdom and France (Table 4). In regard to institution contribution (Table 5), Yale University in Connecticut contributed seven papers, whereas the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia published six papers each. Of all of the articles, 36 resulted from multi-institutional collaboration, 4 from multinational collaboration, and 64 from individual institutions.
Table 4

List of countries that published the 100 top-cited articles in ectopic pregnancy

Rank

Countries

TP

TC

SP

CP

1

USA

65

8524

63

2

2

France

9

1196

9

0

3

UK

8

0

6

2

4

Canada

4

463

3

1

5

Sweden

4

420

2

2

6

Denmark

2

430

2

0

7

Finland

2

261

2

0

8

Netherlands

2

230

2

0

9

Israel

2

173

2

0

10

Belgium

2

111

1

1

11

Taiwan

1

143

1

0

12

Japan

1

96

1

0

13

Germany

1

88

1

0

14

Australia

1

0

0

1

TP refers to all the co-authors originating from the same country or territory contributed to the number of the 100 most cited articles in EP; TC refers to the number of 100 top-cited articles published by the first author originating from each country or territory; SP refers to single country or territory articles; CP refers to internationally collaborative articles. Rank: according to the order of TP, TC, SP, CP and the order of the alphabet of the initials

Table 5

List of institutions that published 2 or more of the 100 top-cited articles in ectopic pregnancy

Rank

Institutions

TP

TC

SP

CP

1

Yale Univ

7

972

7

0

2

Ctr Dis Control

6

702

2

4

3

Ctr Dis Control & Prevent

6

406

1

5

4

Univ Tennessee

5

667

5

0

5

Univ Calif San Francisco

4

268

2

2

6

Hop Antoine Beclere

4

187

1

3

7

Emory Univ

4

167

0

4

8

Vanderbilt Univ

3

267

2

1

9

Univ Washington

3

209

1

2

10

Univ Penn

3

196

2

1

11

Hop Bicetre

3

98

0

3

12

Univ Calif Los Angeles

2

266

1

1

13

Univ Helsinki

2

261

2

0

14

Univ Amsterdam

2

230

2

0

15

Univ Lund Hosp

2

219

1

1

16

Harvard Univ

2

194

1

1

17

Univ Vermont

2

185

2

0

18

Baylor Coll Med

2

176

2

0

19

Amer Soc Reprod Med

2

163

2

0

20

Univ So Calif

2

90

1

1

21

Aarhus Univ

2

0

0

2

22

Univ Alabama

2

0

0

2

23

Univ Michigan

2

0

0

2

TP refers to all the co-authors originating from the same institution contributed to the number of the 100 most cited articles in EP; TC refers to the citation times of the 100 most cited articles in EP published as the first author institution; SP refers to single institution articles; CP refers to inter-institutionally collaborative articles. Rank: according to the order of TP, TC, SP, CP and the order of the alphabet of the initials

Additionally, high-frequency keywords that appeared more than ten times in the 100 most cited articles, including EP, treatment, risk factors, methotrexate, diagnosis, tubal pregnancy, Chlamydia trachomatis infections, human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG), pelvic inflammatory disease, ultrasound, were screened to determine the hot topics in EP research (Table 6).
Table 6

The categories of research hotspots in 100 most cited articles in ectopic pregnancy

Rank

Key word

Frequency

1

Ectopic pregnancy

79

2

Treatment

26

3

Risk factors

17

4

Methotrexate

16

5

Diagnosis

15

6

Tubal pregnancy

14

7

Chlamydia trachomatis infections

13

8

HCG (Human Chorionic-Gonadotropin)

12

9

Pelvic inflammatory disease

12

10

Ultrasound

11

Discussion

The term “citation classics” was first introduced by Eugene Garfield in 1987 in a study to identify the 100 most-cited JAMA articles (Garfield 1987). Since then, citation classics have been studied by many authors in various fields. The number of times that an article is cited is a good way of measuring the impact that the article has on a specific field or topic and, in turn, allows both the author and the journal to be evaluated (Garfield 1972). In our study, the SCI-expanded was used to identify the 100 most cited papers in EP to produce a list of citation classics in this field. This list provides us with a source of great value in terms of the authors and topics that have had a profound influence in the area of EP over the past 50 years.

The present study summarizes several features of influential articles in EP research over the past 50 years. For instance, we found that half of the 100 most cited papers were published in the 1990s, which suggests that older papers are cited more (Picknett and Davis 1999). The articles in 1990s were neither too old to have some outdated opinions nor too early to have time to be proven or cited. In fact, it has been found that the true impact and importance of an article cannot often be precisely assessed for at least two decades after it is published (Baltussen and Kindler 2004).

A high citation frequency also demonstrates that other authors have formulated opinions on the topic and that it has generated discussion and debate (Nason et al. 2013). In our study, these top 100 articles were published in 32 peer-reviewed journals of high quality, as demonstrated by their impact factor (mean 10.421, range 1.535–55.873). The impact factor of a journal is generally accepted as a representation of the scientific quality of a publication. With further analysis, we found that most of the top-cited articles were published in high-impact journals, which is consistent with the results of other reviews. It is generally presumed that articles that are published in high-impact journals are more likely to have an extensive popularity among readers and thus have a greater potential for citation, which in turn maintains the high impact factor of these journals. This factor also supports the well-known paradigm that top-cited articles are often published in journals topping the impact factor list, which in turn maintains the high impact factor of these journals (Garfield 2006). Additionally, it was found that American authors tended to cite local papers (Campbell 1990), and that US reviewers had a significant preference to accept papers written by native researchers (Link 1998).

Additionally, we found that all of the papers in the top 100 were written in the English language and that a majority of them were from the United States. One of the underlying reasons might be due to the large population of senior researchers, adequate research budgets and superior scientific research conditions for scientific investigation. Besides, because of the powerful influence of English-speaking countries like USA, UK and so on and the fact that English is the official language using by most countries and is the world’s most extensive second language, English is widely used all over the word. Collaboration has increased at the author, institution and country levels, which is supported by many earlier studies (Kliegl and Bates 2011). Of the top 100 cited papers, 64 came from individual institutions, 36 came from multi-institutional collaboration, and 4 came from multinational collaboration. This finding reflects that teamwork awareness, in some cases, is of great importance and that scientific collaboration plays an indispensable role in the progress of scientific research.

EP has been defined as pregnancy that develops after implantation of the blastocyst anywhere other than the endometrium lining of the uterine cavity. It remains a major gynecological problem in contemporary gynecological practice and continues to be an important cause of morbidity and mortality in women. Therefore, many studies have targeted the pathogenesis, diagnosis or treatment application to improve future prognosis. According to the implantation site of the blastocyst, EP is divided into tubal pregnancy, ovarian pregnancy, abdominal pregnancy, or intraligamentary pregnancy. Among the sites of EP, more than 95 % of EPs occur in the fallopian tubes. Some special-site EPs such as cesarean scar pregnancy (Godin et al. 1997; Hemminki and Merilainen 1996; Jurkovic et al. 2003; Seow et al. 2004; Sorbi et al. 2013), interstitial pregnancy (Lau and Tulandi 1999), cornual pregnancy (Timortritsch et al. 1992), and cervical pregnancy (Frates et al. 1994) were discussed in the 100 most cited papers.

The risks of an EP vary across women. Among the 100 articles, more than a quarter of them emphasized the risk factors of EP, among which the relationship between Chlamydia trachomatis infection and EP was discussed mostly (Brunham et al. 1986; Cates and Wasserheit 1991; Chow et al. 1990; Egger et al. 1998; Hillis et al. 1997; VanVoorhis et al. 1997). Additionally, the authors focused on other risk factors that can lead to EP, such as pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), smoking, in vitro fertilization (IVF), the use of intrauterine contraceptive devices (IUD), and vaginal douching (Aral et al. 1992; Castles et al. 1999; Hillis et al. 1993; Logerotlebrun et al. 1995; Ory 1981; Rogers 2009; Westrom et al. 1992; Zhang et al. 1997). The phenomenon reminds us that the etiology and pathogenesis of EP for clinical and basic research has attracted close attention from many senior researchers.

The diagnosis of EP has been a hot topic in research across the world. A timely, early diagnosis can help patients obtain better pregnancy outcomes. Ultrasonography and β-hCG levels are important in the early diagnosis of EP (Crochet et al. 2013). Moreover, the combined application of ultrasound and β-hCG levels has great value in a precise diagnosis (Cacciatore et al. 1990; Kadar et al. 1981). We also found that the articles relating to early diagnosis were mainly cited before the 1990s, indicating that the effect of early diagnosis of EP on clinical practice and basic research still needs to be explored.

The treatment of EP has drawn attention from modern researchers. The treatments presented in the classic articles include expectant management and medical and surgical protocols. The focus of treatment is to select a safer and more effective method to preserve reproductive potential. Methotrexate treatment, especially single-dose methotrexate, is thought to reduce the potential cost and morbidity of hospitalization and surgery, which is discussed mostly as well (Glock et al. 1994; Stovall and Ling 1993; Stovall et al. 1991). Following EP, fertility is another topic that is commonly discussed in these classic articles (Sherman et al. 1982) which show improved intrauterine pregnancy after an ectopic pregnancy. Besides, ESEP study and DEMETER study show high rate of 2 years intrauterine pregnancy after an ectopic pregnancy which match the conclusion (Fernandez et al. 2013; Mol et al. 2014).

Although the top 100 articles have proved to be most useful to the vastly larger population of practicing scientists, some limitations are existed in our study (Van Noorden et al. 2014). First, the top-cited articles were always the older papers because of the limited life span of literature. Therefore, some points need to be updated, and such updates are likely to identify trends in research patterns (Garfield 1972). Another important problem with this type of analysis is the “obliteration by incorporation” phenomenon (Garfield 1987). This issue describes the process in which information from truly classic papers becomes cited less frequently and is absorbed into the body of current knowledge (Kelly et al. 2010). Second, the words that we used as subject terms were only “ectopic pregnancy” and “ectopic pregnancies”, which may miss some citations related to our analysis such as those indexed with extrauterine pregnancy or heterotopic pregnancy. Furthermore, the only database that we searched was the SCI-expanded, and those articles published before 1965 were excluded from our study. Therefore, some “classic” articles from other databases or before 1965 may have also been missed in this analysis. Additionally, self-citation, journal bias and language bias were not controlled for in our study, and these issues may have affected our research, whereas citation analysis is still a feasible tool to comprehensively recognize the advances of EP research in the past and future research.

Conclusions

Bibliometric analysis was used to provide a historical perspective on the progress in EP research over the past 50 years. The citation increases as time goes by, and it reaches its peak in the 1990s. Articles originating from the United States and published in high-impact journals were most likely to be cited in the field of EP research. The risk factors of EP like Chlamydia trachomatis infections and the treatment of EP especially like methotrexate medical management were screened to present the hotspots of EP research.

Notes

Declarations

Authors’ contributions

CH and XX contributed to the conception of this work; XC, ZC, ZC, KH and YT prepared the manuscript; XX and CH revised and approved the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Acknowledgements

This work was supported by the Basic Science Research Fund (WHJ2014014) from Logistics University of the Chinese People’s Armed Police Force.

Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Open AccessThis article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.

Authors’ Affiliations

(1)
Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Affiliated Hospital, Logistics University of the Chinese People’s Armed Police Force, 220 Chenglin Road, Hedong District, Tianjin, 300162, China
(2)
Department of Equipment, Affiliated Hospital, Logistics University of the Chinese People’s Armed Police Force, Tianjin, 300162, China
(3)
Department of Hepatopancreatobiliary and Splenic Medicine, Affiliated Hospital, Logistics University of the Chinese People’s Armed Police Force, 220 Chenglin Road, Hedong District, Tianjin, 300162, China

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