There are so many reasons why people visit an emergency room, from abdominal pain to difficulty breathing to high fever and other life-threatening conditions. However, when it comes to emergency departments, they don’t work on a first-come-first-serve basis because patients with severe conditions will be attended to first. So don’t be surprised when you visit the emergency room and then the patients who come after you get attended to before you. That only means that their conditions are severe.
Patient priority is often determined by triage personnel once a patient arrives at the emergency room. The triage staff assesses the patient’s symptoms and medical history. Those patients with the most critical injuries or symptoms like patients with multiple traumas or those who are not able to breathe or unconscious are usually the first priority. They are seen by the doctor immediately.
Patients with urgent symptoms that could worsen are typically seen in 15 minutes to an hour, while those patients with semi-urgent symptoms are usually seen by a doctor in one to two hours.
So what are the types of symptoms and injuries that are given a priority in emergency rooms such as Express Emergency Room San Antonio TX? Well, read on to explore them.
- Life-threatening injuries
Patients with life-threatening injuries will receive priority by the emergency staff. Some of these life-threatening injuries include multiple trauma, stab wounds, gun wounds, those who have been involved in motor accidents, those having a heart attack, and stroke. Additionally, patients with very low blood pressure or very high pulse are also given priority.
- Chest pain and shortness of breath
Chest pains and shortness of breath are usually given priorities in the emergency room. The emergency room staff will determine if a patient should be given priority if he or she complains of chest pain and shortness of breath.
Both conditions can be caused by minor or severe health issues. Chest pain can be a sign that you are having a pulmonary embolism [a blood clot in the lung] or a heart attack. It can also be a symptom of gallbladder inflammation heartburn, as well as panic attack, cancer, or injured ribs. Shortness of breath, on the other hand, can be caused by a number of medical conditions, including life-threatening health issues, such as pneumonia, heart attack, severe asthma attack, or allergic reaction.
Additionally, regarding chest pain and shortness of breath, the priority will depend on any other complaints, the age of the patient as well as the sex of the patient. For instance, a 70-year-old man suffering from shortness of breath will get the priority over a 25-year-old woman complaining of shortness of breath.
- Abdominal pain
Abdominal pain covers symptoms that include stomach pains, spasms, and cramps. According to the Center for Disease Control [CDC], about 17% of patients who visit emergency rooms with abdominal pain are diagnosed with a severe condition.
Abdominal pain can be caused by something as mild as menstrual cramps and indigestion, or as urgent as angina or appendicitis. Other life-threatening conditions such as aneurysm, ectopic pregnancy, or indigestion may also feel like abdominal pains. Because these conditions can be life-threatening, this is why patients experiencing them are given priority.
Diagnosing the cause of abdominal pain is usually quite tricky, making it require multiple diagnostic tests like blood tests or CT scans. However, the most common causes of abdominal pain are renal and intestinal obstruction.
- Severe headaches
It’s normal for people to experience headaches once in a while. Other people may also suffer from migraine, tension, or cluster headaches. But a headache that occurs suddenly and causes visual disturbances, seizures or confusion, accompanied by high fevers, is considered high-risk. Additionally, headaches that are more intense than any other patient has previously experienced are also considered high-risk.
Severe headaches can be caused by serious reasons. For instance, a subarachnoid hemorrhage- bleeding between the brain and its surrounding tissue may be caused by a head injury. Severe headaches may also indicate a stroke or meningitis –serious conditions that are given priority in an emergency room.
The mean temperature of patients who visit the ER complaining of fever is 100.6°F. Fevers that are below 102°F are usually considered to be a mild symptom, which is usually caused by an infection that the body is trying to fight off, such as flu or cold.
But when a patient has a fever, accompanied by additional symptoms, such as a stiff neck or confusion, it could indicate encephalitis or meningitis. If the fever climbs go beyond 103°F and last more than two days, it requires emergency treatment. If a fever goes as high as 107° F, it puts the patient at risk for brain damage and should be treated as quickly as possible.
The cause of vomiting in patients can be much complicated to diagnose. Vomiting can be caused by mild factors such as a migraine headache, morning sickness, or viral infection, to severe causes, such as food allergies or food poisoning, to life-threatening, such as a symptom of a brain tumor.
The physician at the emergency room will closely look at any co-existing conditions and symptoms, and conduct diagnostic tests such as a blood test, urine test, and X-rays to help determine the cause of the problem. So, vomiting, especially if it is severe, is usually given priority.
Patients who come to the emergency room complaining about non-specific pain can be challenging to handle. This kind of pain is usually quite different from that caused by an identifiable source, such as a person complaining of back pain or chest pain. Non-specific pain can be caused by several factors related to the body’s main organ systems, from the muscular system to the nervous system or the skeletal system.
In this case, the ER staff will have to get an accurate medical history of the patient, either from the patient or through his or her primary care doctor. The information can help them identify if the pain has been acute or chronic.