Doctor advises when to skip urgent care for the ER

June 06, 2018 05:51 PM

Most of us love the convenience of urgent care centers. However, for some five percent of the population, stopping there first can put your life in jeopardy.

I reached out to the chief of emergency medicine at St. Peter's Hospital, Dr. Frank Dimase, after hearing from many viewers looking for help in making the right call.


"You think of sort of the brain, the heart, the lungs first," explained Dimase.

He says trouble with those organs should send you to a hospital emergency department. That's because time is brain if you're suffering a stroke.

"If you have weakness on one side of the body or the other or if they're numb on one side of the body or the other, those are signs of possible stroke," noted Dimase.

Sudden onset of confusion could also signal stroke. If it's accompanied by fever, that could mean sepsis -- the body's overactive and toxic response to an infection that can be deadly.

"Patients that present to the urgent care, we're losing some time there to get antibiotics started really quickly," pointed out Dimase.

Time is of the essence if you suspect you're suffering a heart attack, because time is heart muscle.

"The problem is they don't have sub-specialists on call to take care of it," explained Dimase.

Bleeding is another reason to head to the emergency department, especially if the person is being treated with anti-coagulants for other health issues.

"Whether it's from a laceration that's deep so you can have vascular structures involved or it's internal bleeding, whether a person's vomiting blood or they have rectal bleeding," explained Dimase.

When the patient is younger than 3-months-old or a senior with other complex health issues, a trip to the emergency department is your wisest move says Dr. Dimase, leaving urgent care to treat ailments it's best geared to.

"Muscle aches or minor trauma, minor sprains, abrasions, bruises, cough, cold, congestion in otherwise healthy people," he clarified.

One more symptom that should send you to the emergency department -- severe pain.

As Dr. Dimase points out, something like severe, sudden onset of back pain could indicate a ruptured aorta -- and that poses an immediate threat to your life.


Benita Zahn

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