Broken Bones – ER or Urgent Care?
When to go to the ER or the Urgent Care.
Growing up, whenever we got sick or injured the only treatment options we had were: schedule a doctor appointment or go to the hospital. Today, however, there are many treatment options available and knowing which one you should choose can be confusing.
Part of this confusion comes from not understanding what the differences between an Urgent Care center and an Emergency Room are; after all urgent and emergency are often used as synonyms, but, when it comes to medical care, the difference is clear.
Let’s start with understanding the difference between an Urgent Care clinic and an Emergency Room.
Urgent Care Centers: These healthcare facilities treat many of the same minor injuries and illnesses as your family doctor. Issues like allergies, mild respiratory illnesses, small cuts, and sprains can all be treated at an urgent care facility.
Emergency Rooms: ER’s can treat any of the illnesses and injuries mentioned above, however, if you are able to get treatment at an urgent care you will most likely save money, as copays for minor injuries tend to be more expensive if treated in the ER. You should, however, go directly to the ER if you are suffering from a life-threatening condition such as a heart attack, stroke or severe trauma.
Where to Go in Case of a Broken Bone
When it comes to bone fractures, most of the time diagnosis cannot be made by a regular physical exam, diagnostic imaging such as x-rays and CT Scans are necessary. This means that if you suspect you or a loved one has a broken bone, they need to be examined by a qualified physician.
Not all bone fractures are the same, there are many types and treatment varies depending on the type and severity of the injury. In some cases, a brace, along with some rest will be enough, other times surgery might be required.
Types of Bone Fractures
- Simple Fractures: When the broken bone does not break the skin or muscle tissue
- Compound Fractures: In this case, the bone does pierce the surface exposing the bone and surrounding deep tissue
- Comminuted Fractures: These are severe fractures where the bone breaks in different places
- Greenstick Fractures: Common in children due to the flexibility of their bones, these fractures occur only on one side of the bone, meaning it is just a partial break
- Avulsion Fractures: When a small piece of bone is torn from the main bone due to extreme force placed on a ligament or tendon, the injury is known as an avulsion fracture
The location of the fracture will also help you determine where you should go for treatment. The following chart was designed to help you make the right decision on where to go in case of a suspected broken bone injury.
Easy Services Comparison Chart ER vs. Urgent Care.
Type and Location of Injury
Urgent Care Center
Simple fracture on small bones such as a finger, wrist, toe
The ER has all necessary equipment to diagnose and treat these types of injuries. However, these types of fractures can be treated at an urgent care center
If the urgent care has X-rays available, they can place a temporary splint and then refer you to an orthopedic M.D.
Compound and Comminuted Fractures
These need to be treated at an emergency room as soon as possible
Urgent Care centers are not equipped to handle these types of injuries
Bone Fractures in Arms or Legs
Fractures on long bones like those in your arms or legs require more specialized treatment available at any ER
If you visit an Urgent Care center with a fracture to a long bone, they will refer you to the ER or an orthopedic M.D., and it will cost you more money
Centralized Bone Fractures (Skull, Hip, Neck)
Skull, hip, or neck bone fractures are very serious, you will require CT Scans and possibly surgery. Therefore, you need to go to the ER
Urgent Care centers are not able to diagnose or treat bone fractures on the skull, hip or neck
Bone Fracture that Restricts Blood Flow
If the broken bone is restricting the flow of blood in the area, you must immediately be transported to the ER
Urgent Care centers cannot treat this type of injury
Visible Deformity at the Injury Site
This is a sign of a severe bone fracture, and you should be transported to the ER
Urgent Care centers are not able to treat these types of fractures
Bottom Line: If you ever suspect you might have a broken bone your best choice is to visit the nearest Altus Emergency Center. Our physicians will take x-rays or CT Scans and accurately diagnose the severity of your injury, and the best course of treatment.
Know Where to Go In the Event of an Emergency
If you are ever in need of quality emergency care, you will not have to wait in line at Altus Emergency Centers. All of our ERs are fully equipped and open 24/7.
Altus Emergency Centers Texas is Here for You 24/7
Altus Emergency Centers are all open 24/7/365, with no lines. Our facilities are well-equipped to diagnose and treat everything from major to minor adult and pediatric emergencies. We are honored to be a part of our beautiful Texas communities and work hard each day to help see them grow and prosper!
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Each ER team is highly efficient in treating chest and abdominal pains, pediatric emergencies, flu symptoms, sports injuries, bone breaks, as well as all other major and minor injuries. All services are available 24/7, including weekends and holidays with little to no wait times.