Objectives: To review the spectrum and frequency of complications associated with coughing.
Design/methodology: Ovid MEDLINE literature review (through March 2004) for all studies published in the English language, including case series and case reports, since 1966 using the MeSH terms "cough" and "complications."
Results: The complications of cough appear to stem from physiologic events. The magnitude of pressures, velocities, and energy that is generated during vigorous coughing allow coughing to be an effective means of clearing the airways of excessive secretions and foreign material, and providing cardiopulmonary resuscitation; however, they can also cause a variety of profound physical and psychosocial complications. The adverse occurrences include cardiovascular, constitutional, GI, genitourinary, musculoskeletal, neurologic, ophthalmologic, psychosocial, respiratory, and skin complications, and a decrease in health-related quality of life.
Conclusions: Knowledge of the spectrum of complications should enable clinicians to appreciate (1) the impact of cough on patients, (2) why it is imperative to exhaust all possible diagnostic and therapeutic options to eliminate cough, and (3) why it is inappropriate to minimize a patient's complaint of cough and/or advise him/her to "live with it."