This is the most common medical terminology in the clinical setting.
Possibly on some occasion we have heard in an informative or read in some news that a certain person is admitted to the hospital for a serious injury, that he is critical or that the prognosis is favorable or uncertain.
It is also possible that these types of terms come to us because either ourselves or a loved one has been entered for some reason. Said concepts refer to the state of health and the expectation or prognosis of someone who suffers from some type of illness, accident or medical condition. And the truth is that despite the fact that generally when we talk about a serious or mild illness or a reserved prognosis we can get a rough idea of what it implies, we do not always have full knowledge of what is being meant.
Knowing these types of terms can be relevant in our daily lives and that is why, in a generic way, throughout this article we intend to collect a series of concepts referring to the different types of medical conditions and prognoses that sometimes communicate to us.
Types of prognosis and severity of a disease
The state of health of a person refers to the medical or health conditions that that person sustains, which can favor, maintain or harm in different ways their expectations of survival, life expectancy and ability to achieve or maintain well-being.
When we speak of the state of health we refer to a set of elements of a fundamentally biological nature, although psychological factors may also come into play. Although other aspects such as the psychosocial sphere also influence and can be symptomatic and even determinant for a person’s state of health, in principle they would not fall within this concept.
Before the appearance of a disease, injury or medical alteration, the state of health of the subject in question will be compromised and be harmed. The presence of this disease implies an alteration that can be categorized in different degrees depending on its severity. Below are some of the main medical terms that refer to how a person is in relation to the severity of a specific condition
1. Mild illness or minor injury
We use the term mild state in order to refer to a state in which the affectation, disease or injury suffered by the patient in question has no signs of seriousness and an early recovery is expected without sequelae. Recovery is approximately usually calculated in about fifteen days. The prognosis is good.
An example is found in mild illnesses such as a cold or sticking an object in some non-compromised area, such as the skin.
2. Less serious condition
Classifying a disorder, disease or medical situation as having a “less serious” prognosis implies that although a speedy recovery is not expected, it is not expected to pose a risk to the patient’s life. Recovery can take between a fortnight or a month.
3. Serious illness or injury
The fact that a disease or an alteration is serious implies that said alteration implies an obvious danger to the life or functionality of the patient. The risk of death is present, or the injury may involve the loss or decrease of some relevant capacity or ability of the person (for example, the ability to walk). Recovery usually takes more than a month.
Someone in serious condition could be a patient with pneumonia.
4. Very serious condition, illness or injury
A very serious condition refers to the fact that the existence of a certain problem, affectation, injury or disease presents a high level of probability of death. An example of this is when a patient has multiple internal injuries but is stabilized and the possibility of being saved is still being considered.
5. Critical condition
Another term referring to the condition / prognosis of a patient is that of critical condition. In this case, this concept is used to indicate that the vital signs of the person in question are unstable, and there is an immediate risk to his life despite the possibility of recovery.
The subject is at a crucial moment and of extreme danger, death being highly probable, although depending on his response to treatment he could recover. Generally, the patient would be in the Intensive Care Unit or ICU, being highly monitored.
An example of critical condition could be found in patients admitted who suffer a cardiovascular accident or a heart attack, in the first moments. The person would be at risk of death but depending on the treatment could present an improvement and even be saved.
6. Acute state
The fact that a disease is in an acute state, the presence of a clear and defined symptomatology that occurs in a limited and generally short period of time (never exceeding six months). Being in an acute phase of a disease does not imply that it is more or less serious, rather it implies that its evolution is rapid in time (the conclusion of the disease being the complete recovery or reaching the death of the patient) .
7. Chronic disease
That a disease or injury is chronic implies that said disease or disorder will be present for the rest of the life of the subject from its diagnosis, said alteration being of long duration. In general, all diseases that last for more than six months are considered as such. Many of them could be fatal if there were no medical means to control them.
Some examples of chronic diseases are genetic disorders, diabetes or HIV today (being controlled by medication).
8. Terminal condition or illness
We are facing a terminal problem when the condition or injury presented by the patient implies his death in a relatively short period, generally around six months (although it can be prolonged), and it is expected that this alteration is the cause of his death . The best known example is cancer with metastases in its later stages.
The medical prognosis
As we have seen previously, there are multiple categories that allow us to determine the repercussions that the suffering of different diseases have or may have. This state would refer to the current moment, but it is the basis that allows us to try to predict how the health of the person or patient in question will evolve.
This prediction regarding the most probable evolutionary course that an illness or injury can follow and the possibilities of overcoming it is what is known as prognosis. This prognosis is derived from the set of available data on the patient’s current condition, history, environment, and the disease or injury in question.
As with the state of a disease, we can find different types of prognosis. The prognosis itself does not have to be related to the disorder that the subject presents (although this has an influence), but to the expectation that is had in each specific case. Thus, for example, two patients with the same type of cancer may have different prognoses.
1. Favorable or good forecast
The presence of a favorable or good prognosis is considered in those cases in which the existing evidence suggests that the course of the disease that the patient suffers leads to recovery.
2. Moderate or intermediate prognosis
This type of prognosis indicates that the expectation regarding the patient’s health status is not extremely positive but that there are no data that suggest the possibility of death in the immediate future. It can, however, suppose the presence of functional limitations or even some kind of disability.
3. Severe prognosis, or poor prognosis
When we speak of a serious prognosis, we are referring, as its name suggests, to the fact that the conditions of a certain patient suggest that there is a severe risk for their death or for the existence of severe limitations in their life.
4. Reserved forecast
The term reserved prognosis is used to refer to a situation in which the doctors and professionals in charge of a patient are unable to determine the possible evolution or expectation regarding the outcome of the patient’s condition. Typical of moments when there is not enough information to speculate the future of the patient or when there is a risk of complications.
An example of this could be found in the prognosis of a patient who has suffered a traffic accident and is unconscious and with a head injury, but whose degree of involvement is not yet known.