Definition and Overview
Patients who are undergoing antibiotic treatment due to an infection or infectious diseases are scheduled for a follow-up consultation. The goal is to monitor the patient’s progress and, if the treatment is successful, his recovery. The visit mostly involves checking the infection site (if possible) and the patient’s symptoms to determine if there are improvements since the treatment was initiated. The follow-up also aims to protect the patient from the risks and complications that the infection may cause to the body.
Who Should Undergo and Expected Results
An infection consultation follow-up is beneficial for all patients who have ongoing infections and are currently undergoing treatment, which typically involves:
- Antibiotics or antibacterial medications – These are medications used to fight infections that are caused by bacteria, such as e.coli and salmonella, two of the most common causes of food poisoning.
- Anti-viral medications – These are used when the infection is caused by a virus. The common cold, warts and flu are among the most common viral infections.
- Anti-fungal medications – Available in oral as well as topical types, these drugs are used for the treatment of fungal problems or infections caused by a fungus. Fungi is a leading cause of skin infections, which explains why many anti-fungal drugs are available in topical form.
Among all these infection-fighting drugs, the use of antibiotics is the one that requires close monitoring as they are linked to various side effects including antibiotic resistance.
If antibiotics begin to cause side effects, seem not to be working as expected, or the infection seems to be getting worse instead of improving, the doctor may increase the dosage or switch to a different kind of medication. Bacteria can become resistant to antibiotics due to incorrect or improper usage or if a patient does not complete an entire course of antibiotics. If any of these takes place, the bacteria can neutralize the specific antibiotic or change to a different attack site.
If the treatment seems to be working well, patients are still scheduled for a follow-up consultation to make sure that they will not have a relapse of the infection.
How the Procedure Works
An infection consultation follow-up is scheduled by the same doctor who prescribed the medication, and is usually set after seven or ten days, depending on the prescribed length of the treatment. The visit takes place in the doctor’s office or clinic, and may take up to an hour depending on the patient’s condition.
A physical exam as well as some other tests, such as those listed below, can be expected during the consultation:
- Complete blood count
- Blood culture
- Urine tests
- Sputum test
- Cerebrospinal fluid culture
The results of tests conducted during the follow-up visit are compared to the results of initial tests done prior to the start of treatment so the doctor can assess if the patient’s condition has so far improved or not.
Possible Risks and Complications
Doctors who prescribe antibiotics for the treatment of an infection always asks the patient to come back for a follow-up to ensure his safety while taking antibiotics. If antibiotics fail to work, the infection may worsen at a rapid rate and can cause serious long-term complications, such as chronic medical problems and recurrent infections.
One of the most dangerous complications of an infection that is not effectively treated is sepsis, or when the infection spreads to the patient’s blood, causing severe reactions such as chills, nausea, rapid heartbeat, confusion, less frequent urination, inflammation, blood clots and even organ failure.
An infection follow-up also helps to guard against the several reported side effects of antibacterial drugs. These include:
- Allergic reactions, such as itchy rashes, coughing, tightening of the throat and wheezing
- Anaphylaxis or a severe allergic reaction, causing rapid heartbeat, difficulty breathing, sudden drop in blood pressure and fainting
- Abdominal pain
Infectious Diseases Society of America
- European Society for Microbiology and Infectious Diseases