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What is Iatrogenic Disease?

Allison Boelcke
By
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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An iatrogenic disease is any condition or set of symptoms that are the direct cause of a doctor’s actions and would not have occurred on its own. Although the disease is not necessarily intentional, it can be the result of neglect or lack of knowledge about a patient’s underlying conditions or prescription medications. The exact symptoms and causes of iatrogenic diseases can vary widely depending on the patient, but can usually be treated promptly since they tend to occur when patients are under medical supervision.

An adverse reaction is one known form of iatrogenic disease. It is a broad term that refers to any action from a doctor that is specifically intended to treat a condition or symptom in a patient, but instead ends up causing harm rather than curing or fixing the situation. Some common examples of adverse reactions can include a patient’s body rejecting blood or organs after a transfusion or experiencing dangerous symptoms, such as difficulty breathing, swelling, or high fever, after ingesting a prescribed drug. Adverse reactions, especially after serious surgery, can be dangerous if a patient’s body is not strong enough to effectively fight the symptoms.

While an adverse reaction is a cause of iatrogenic disease in which the doctor generally has the best of intentions and is following a standard line of treatment for the patient’s condition, medical misadventure is a term that refers to negligent, avoidable actions that cause a patient to have additional symptoms. One example of medical misadventure is if a common medical procedure is performed incorrectly. This can include the improper insertion of intravenous medication equipment, if a catheter is not properly monitored and becomes infected, or even if surgical supplies are left inside the body after surgery.

A precise infection that can contribute to iatrogenic disease is known as a nosocomial infection. A nosocomial infection is a collection of bacteria that builds up in the area where surgery was performed. Common spots where nosocomial infections can occur include the actual skin incision, areas of the respiratory system, the urinary tract, and even the blood. People who have a compromised immune system, such as the elderly, children, or those with autoimmune disease, tend to be at the highest risk of nosocomial infections because their bodies may not be strong enough to effectively fight off bacteria during surgery.

An iatrogenic disease can also be brought upon by medication errors from doctors. This may include prescribing incorrect types of medication that can negatively interact with a patient’s other medications or injecting drugs that a person is allergic to. More serious cases occur when a doctor or nurse administers too large of an amount of medication into a patient, which can result in severe overdose or death.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Allison Boelcke
By Allison Boelcke
Allison Boelcke, a digital marketing manager and freelance writer, helps businesses create compelling content to connect with their target markets and drive results. With a degree in English, she combines her writing skills with marketing expertise to craft engaging content that gets noticed and leads to website traffic and conversions. Her ability to understand and connect with target audiences makes her a valuable asset to any content creation team.
Discussion Comments
By Glasis — On Mar 17, 2014
@Telsyst - I know that I would think twice about a surgery every time I did one if I became a doctor. Sometimes even when you do everything right, something bad can happen.

Medicine is so patient specific. You can do the same surgery a thousand times and one day it just goes wrong. I guess that is why they have to pay all kinds of insurance.

There are bad doctors out there and you just have to hope you get a good one.

By Telsyst — On Mar 16, 2014

It helps to keep the same doctor for as long as you can to avoid iatrogenic disease. Familiarity is a big help in treating a patient properly. If you have a doctor for a long time they tend to anticipate your reaction to things better. Of course, doctors retire and new doctors need patients too.

Doctors case loads are pretty large nowadays so there must be a lot of stress involved in today's medical field.

Allison Boelcke
Allison Boelcke
Allison Boelcke, a digital marketing manager and freelance writer, helps businesses create compelling content to connect with their target markets and drive results. With a degree in English, she combines her writing skills with marketing expertise to craft engaging content that gets noticed and leads to website traffic and conversions. Her ability to understand and connect with target audiences makes her a valuable asset to any content creation team.
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