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Crosby Clinic: 701-965-6349
Care Center: 701-965-6086

When To Go To The Emergency Room

Frequently Asked Questions

Your body is giving you a warning sign. It’s telling you something is wrong. You feel sick and you are unsure if your symptoms are serious enough to require a trip to the emergency room.

St. Luke’s Medical Center providers have prepared a series of questions and answers so you will know when you should consider the ER or another option which may be more appropriate and less expensive.

• When should I go to the ER?
o Here are warning signs of a medical emergency, according to the American Academy of Emergency Physicians.
 Chest pain or upper abdominal pain that lasts at least two minutes
 Uncontrolled bleeding
 Sudden or severe pain
 Coughing or vomiting blood
 Difficulty breathing, shortness of breath
 Sudden dizziness, weakness, or change in vision
 Severe or persistent vomiting or diarrhea
 Change in mental status such as confusion
 Difficulty speaking
 Unusual abdominal pain
 Suicidal or homicidal thoughts
 Changes in vision
 Fever or flu-like symptoms (a patient may have severe flu and require hospitalization)
 Allergic reactions (some are severe and may be life-threatening)
 Broken bones
 Animal bites (these can be significant in some cases)

• When should I consider a clinic visit?
o These provider-staffed facilities offer an alternative when there isn’t an emergency. They are generally less expensive than an emergency room visit. The clinic usually has immediate access to simple laboratory procedures.

o Providers in clinics treat minor or acutely rising medical conditions that patients feel require immediate medical attention but that are not medical emergencies. Non-urgent conditions can generally wait to be treated by scheduled appointments and medical emergencies involving trauma or resuscitation should go straight to a hospital emergency room.

Conditions suitable for clinic treatment
o A sprained ankle
o Ear infections
o Minor burns or injuries
o Coughs, colds, sore throats

• When Should I call 9-1-1?
o The 911 emergency number is for true emergencies. An emergency threatens a person’s life, limbs, or sense organs. Examples are heart attacks, strokes, breathing problems, head and neck injuries, severe bleeding, and eye injuries.

o When you call 911, an ambulance is sent with people trained in life support. The patient is taken to a hospital for emergency care. One reason to avoid using 911 if it’s not absolutely necessary is the cost. The patient or his or her insurance company will be billed for the ambulance, the hospital, and the doctor’s services. The best reason to use 911 only in a serious emergency is so that the emergency services personnel are free to help a person having a life-threatening emergency.

• When should I call my doctor?
o If you think a person needs emergency treatment at a hospital, it’s sometimes helpful to first call your provider for advice. Do this only if you have the time and the provider is immediately available. If not, then you should call 911 or go to the nearest hospital. Your provider can advise you as to whether an emergency situation actually exists.
o If there is time to spare, then you should see your provider first. Remember, a provider’s visit won’t be as expensive as a hospital’s emergency treatment. And it won’t tie up vital emergency medical services. The provider may also decide that the condition can be treated in his or her office or at home. This saves your time and the hospital’s time, and reduces overall health costs.