More than 913,700 French articles are referenced in Scopus. Of these, “Note preliminaire sur le traitement des angiomes vertebraux par vertebroplastie acrylique percutane” (1) is ranked as the most cited article, with more than 500 citations to date.

To gain some insight into what makes a successful non-English paper, we asked the authors and those who have cited the paper frequently why they thought this paper had such an impact. The unanimous response was that the main reason for citing the article so frequently was because it represented a landmark in the field and was the first to describe a technique that was adopted internationally in the years thereafter.

One of the authors, Professor Deramond from CHU Amiens, says: “It is the first article describing the original vertebroplasty technique […]. A considerable number of articles […] focus on this minimally invasive therapeutic method […] [hence the article] is cited systematically.”

Frequent citers agree with this. Dr. Pflugmacher, from the University of Berlin, says that “the article is cited several times because it is the origin of vertebroplasty.” Dr. Liebermann of the Cleveland Clinic, Dr. Burton from the University of Texas and Dr. Jensen from the University of Virginia expressed very similar views.

Effect of language on diffusion
It seems, however, that the fact that the article was written in French was rather an obstacle to its early diffusion. Professor Deramond notes that “it wasn’t until 1997 and the publication of an article in the American Journal of Neuroradiology that vertebroplasty became really recognized and spread worldwide.” One of the other authors, Professor Le Gars from CHU Amiens, stresses: “This article is often cited because it is the first to describe the vertebroplasty technique, devised in our hospital and now used worldwide. This is what explains the high number of cites, the usage of the French language in an Anglo-Saxon world being rather a penalizing factor.”

Professor Belkoff, a frequent citer from the John Hopkins Medical Center, adds: “Vertebroplasty would have become the mainstream practice that it is perhaps 10 years earlier, had the article been written in English. If it were not for Jacques Dion, a French Canadian, hearing about vertebroplasty presented in French at a meeting of radiologists, the introduction of vertebroplasty to the US may have taken even longer. Jacques brought back what he learned to UVA, where he and colleagues Mary Jensen, John Mathis and Avery Evans used it and started spreading the word.”

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