A complication in medicine, or medical complication, is an unfavorable evolution or consequence of a disease, health condition, or therapy. Complications may adversely affect the prognosis of a disease. Complications generally involve a worsening in severity of disease or the development of new signs, symptoms, or pathological changes, which may become widespread throughout the body, affecting other organ systems. Thus, complications may involve the development of new diseases resulting from a previously existing disease. Complications may also arise as a result of various therapies. Iatrogenic complications (from Greek, "brought forth by the healer") refers to medical treatments provided by physicians, including drugs or surgery with adverse effects that produce new health problem(s).
Knowledge of the most common and severe complications of a disease, procedure, or treatment allow for prevention and preparation for treatment in the event that they should occur.
Complications are not to be confused with sequelae, which is a residual effect that occurs after the acute phase of an illness or injury. Sequelae can appear early or weeks to months later and are a result of the initial injury or illness. For example, a scar resulting from a burn or dysphagia resulting from a stroke would be considered sequelae. In addition, complications should not be confused with comorbidities, which are diseases that occur concurrently but that have no causative association.
Examples of complicationsEdit
- Generalized sepsis (infection of the blood) may occur as a complication of an infected wound or abscess.
- Allergic shock can be a reaction to several kinds of anesthetics, as a complication in a surgery.
- Fractured ribs and sternum may be a complication of cardiopulmonary resuscitation attempts in people suffering severe osteoporosis.
- Miscarriage is the most common complication of early pregnancy.
- Puerperal fever was a common complication of childbirth and used to kill a large proportion of mothers before the advent of antisepsis and antibiotics.
- Diabetes mellitus may present a series of complications in an advanced or more severe stage, such as gangrene, diabetic foot, blindness, infections, etc.
- Thrombosis in the heart or brain, causing stroke or acute myocardial infarction can be complications of blood coagulation disorders, phlebitis (inflammation of the veins), endocarditis and artificial heart valves
- Eczema vaccinatum is a rare and severe complication of smallpox vaccination in people with eczema.
- Hepatotoxic dementia is a possible complication of hepatitis and liver cirrhosis.
- Mental retardation is a common complication of untreated hydrocephalus.
- A paradoxical reaction to a drug; that is, a reaction that is the opposite to the intended purpose of the drug. An example is benzodiazepines, a class of psychoactive drugs considered minor tranquilizers with varying hypnotic, sedative, anxiolytic, anticonvulsant, and muscle relaxant effects; paradoxically they may also create hyperactivity, anxiety, convulsions etc. in susceptible individuals.
- Erectile dysfunction and urinary incontinence which may follow prostatectomy.
- Suicide is a common complication of many disorders and conditions that consistently affect a person's life negatively, such as major depressive disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, schizophrenia, anxiety disorders, or substance abuse.
- Common complications of atrial fibrillation include stroke and the formation of a thromboembolus.
- Complications of outpatient drugs are very common and many patients experience worry or discomfort due to them.
There may be financial pressures which act in opposition to preventing complications. A United States study found that hospitals make more money per patient when patients have complications.
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