Emergency Room versus Clinic?

We are deep into cold and flu season, and often see a spike in the number of our patients that go the emergency room during this time. Emergency rooms are great at many things, and not so great at others. They specialize in emergencies (it’s in the name!): making a quick diagnosis when the situation is very serious or life threatening. In order to do this, they often need to do many tests – lab tests, images etc that be extremely expensive. Tests like these may be important to figure out if your appendix has ruptured, but may be unnecessary if the problem is an ear or sinus infection. It’s a good time to review when to use emergency services, and when you may not need to.
In the following cases, not only is the emergency room the right place to go, you should call 911 to get you there- don’t drive yourself!
  • Choking
  • Stopped breathing
  • Head injury with passing out, fainting, or confusion
  • Injury to neck or spine, especially if there is loss of feeling or inability to move
  • Electric shock or lightning strike
  • Severe burn
  • Severe chest pain or pressure
  • Seizure that lasted 3 to 5 minutes
There are times when you do need to be seen, but may not need an ambulance, such as:
  • Difficulty breathing, shortness of breath
  • Moderate chest or upper abdominal pain or pressure
  • Fainting, sudden dizziness, weakness
  • Sudden changes in vision
  • Confusion or changes in mental status
  • Any sudden and severe pain
  • Uncontrolled bleeding
  • Severe or persistent vomiting or diarrhea
  • Coughing or vomiting blood
  • Suicidal feelings
  • Shortness of breath
  • Unusual abdominal pain
  • Possible broken bones, or head injury with loss of consciousness
If you aren’t sure if you need to go or not, the quick answer is to call us. We can’t always tell exactly what is going on over the phone, but often we can determine your best course of action. We can also help manage the symptoms until we can get you into the office. If we do end up sending you to the ER, we can often call first and let the ER know you are coming, tell them your medical history, and generally make the transfer a bit smoother. Remember that you can reach a provider at LPIM 24 hours a day, just by calling the regular number of the clinic (720) 565-6101.

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