The 100 Most Cited Papers in the History of the American Surgical Association

Joshua P. Landreneau, MD, MSc; Matthew Weaver, MS; Conor P. Delaney, MD; Ali Aminian, MD; Justin B. Dimick, MD; Keith D. Lillemoe, MD; Philip R. Schauer, MD


Annals of Surgery. 2020;271(4):663-670. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


Objective: The aim of this study was to determine characteristics of the most cited publications in the history of the American Surgical Association (ASA).

Summary Background Data: The Annals of Surgery has served as the journal of record for the ASA since 1928, with a special issue each year dedicated to papers presented before the ASA Annual Meeting.

Methods: The top 100 most cited ASA publications in the Annals of Surgery were identified from the Scopus database and evaluated for key characteristics.

Results: The 100 most cited papers from the ASA were published between 1955 and 2010 with an average of 609 citations (range: 333–2304) and are included among the 322 most cited papers in the Annals of Surgery. The most common subjects of study included clinical cancer (n = 43), gastrointestinal (n = 13), cardiothoracic/vascular (n = 9), and transplant (n = 9). Ninety-three institutions were included lead by Johns Hopkins University (n = 9), University of Pittsburgh (n = 8), Memorial Sloan-Kettering (n = 7), John Wayne Cancer Institute (n = 7), University of Texas (n = 7), and 5 each from Brigham and Women's Hospital, Mayo Clinic, and University of Chicago. The majority of manuscripts came from the United States (n = 85), followed by Canada (n = 7), Germany (n = 5), and Italy (n = 5). Study design included randomized controlled trials (n = 19), retrospective matched cohort studies (n = 11), retrospective nonmatched studies (n = 46), and other (n = 24).

Conclusions: The top 100 most cited publications from the ASA are highly impactful, landmark studies representing a diverse array of subject matter, investigators, study design, institutions, and countries. These influential publications have immensely advanced surgical science over the decades and should serve as inspiration for all surgeons and surgical investigators.


The American Surgical Association (ASA) is the oldest and most prestigious surgical society in the United States. Founded in 1880 with initial membership including forty-four prominent "surgeons," whose practice would in modern times be considered to encompass multiple surgical and medical subspecialties, the society was founded with a goal to "promote the development and growth of the surgical science and the welfare of the human race."[1] Since its inception, candidacy in the ASA required significant contribution as a surgical innovator or original investigator, and membership has since grown to include some of the most prominent surgeon-scientists worldwide.

Each Spring, the ASA holds an Annual Meeting which includes a discussion of original scientific papers. In what could be considered the first of what is now known as the Scientific Sessions of the Annual Meeting, 5 carefully selected papers were read before the Association in their 1882 meeting in Baltimore followed by discussion among the Fellows.[2] The format of these Scientific Sessions has since expanded to include the presentation of 32 abstracts. To disseminate the findings and discussions of these papers, a record of each meeting was published in an annual Transactions. Beginning in 1931, the Annals of Surgery has served as the official journal of record for the ASA.[3] Each year, Annals dedicates their September and October issues to the publication of papers presented before the Scientific Sessions of the ASA's Annual Meeting.

Although there is no perfect method for evaluating the impact that a specific study has had on advancing a scientific discipline, the number of citations from subsequent authors has been offered as a useful proxy for this purpose.[4] As such, in recent years, there have been multiple publications across various medical and surgical specialties exploring the "most cited" studies in their respective fields.[5–10] To date, no such analyses have been performed exploring the most influential works presented before the ASA. In the present study, we aimed to identify and characterize the most highly cited ASA conference papers in the history of Annals of Surgery.