What Are Iatrogenic Events During Medical Treatment?

Whether you have the flu or a fracture, chances are good that your go-to solution is a trip to the doctor's office. And you're not alone. A poll conducted by The Associated Press in partnership with the University of Chicago found that seven out of 10 Americans trust medical care workers to improve their well-being and tend to their needs.

That trust is largely well-earned. But, as with any job, there are times when things don't go according to plan. Well-intended medication or interventions can have unexpected negative effects on a patient. And when this happens, the instances are broadly known as iatrogenic events (via Science Direct).

Some are more common among the elderly, while others can affect anyone who seeks medical treatment (via the Hartford Institute of Geriatric Nursing). The difference comes down to the root cause of the iatrogenic event. It might be something as straightforward as a back injury after visiting the chiropractor or as unexpected as a drug interaction. But in these cases, the solution may, in fact, create another problem.

Iatrogenic events can affect everyone

Iatrogenic events — also known as Iatrogenesis — are a significant issue for both the patient and the medical community, according to the Hartford Institute for Geriatric Nursing. The Institute also refers to these instances as generally more common among the elderly who are admitted for prolonged hospital stays or moved into nursing homes. Iatrogenic events in these settings can include adverse drug interactions, pressure ulcers, and the worsening of other age-related issues such as fall frequency.

It's not only the elderly population who are at risk of such events, but patients of any age. The Medical Journal Armed Forces India reported in 2005 that procedures (either mechanical or diagnostic), and treatments such as drug protocols and therapeutic regimens could pose an inherent risk to anyone. With particular regard to medications and prescription drugs, the study suggests complications can occur even if there are no co-occurring drug reactions.

Fortunately, many iatrogenic events can be addressed by medical providers almost immediately. It's important to ask your doctor any questions you may have about the risks of medical procedures and treatments, and to address any symptoms that arise with your medical team as soon as they come up.