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When Is an Orthopedic Injury an Emergency?

Orthopedic physicians deal with injuries to the bones and their related structures. Orthopedic treatments and procedures cover fractures, torn ligaments and tendons, strained muscles, and similar injuries. They also deal with acquired and congenital skeletal deformities and degenerative diseases like osteoarthritis.

With new knowledge and technology in orthopedic medicine, older procedures have been replaced by bone grafts, joint replacements, prostheses, and special footwear. Orthopedic treatment frequently combines rehabilitation with traditional medicine and surgery.

When Does an Orthopedic Issue Become Urgent?

Orthopedic emergencies are conditions that should be seen by a physician the same day the injury occurs, to help prevent harm and long-lasting negative impact to the patient. Major trauma with complex fractures, deep and/or wide cuts, and loss of consciousness definitely demand immediate care at the hospital emergency room (ER).

Other orthopedic emergency conditions can develop slowly, with little or no apparent trauma. They often occur at home with no obvious injury. It can be difficult to judge whether they qualify as emergencies and need immediate attention, or whether such attention can be deferred, or whether a physician should at least be consulted about the condition.

So if you do have an emergency orthopedic issue, where is the best place to get the care you need? Knowing when and where to go can save you future problems and significant time and money.

Common Emergency Orthopedic Conditions

There are many serious and painful orthopedic conditions. When these occur or are discovered, an immediate call to the orthopedic physician is needed.

The most common orthopedic injuries – which usually occur in the aftermath of surgery or an accident – that require urgent and emergency attention are:

Severe back pain along with weakness in the legs and difficulty in urinating, especially after lumbar spine surgery or epidural spinal injection, could be caused by bleeding in the area around the spinal cord.

Severe pain and swelling in a joint, accompanied by fever and chills, could be due to a joint infection.

Calf pain and swelling shortly after being injured or having surgery in the legs could indicate a blood clot deep in the veins. This can become a life-threatening embolism.

Dislocations are joint injuries that force the bones out of their normal position.

Falls or twists in a post-operative limb, along with significant pain, could mean a positional change in the setting of the fracture, another new fracture, or a dislocation of the new joint.

Increasing pain, swelling, and numb fingers or toes in a patient with a solid cast could indicate cast-compression syndrome.

Neurovascular injury in an injured extremity can compromise neurovascular function. Signs of this type of injury can be pain, numbness, or tingling. Delays in treating the condition can affect nerve function and blood flow to the limb. This can result in the need for amputation of the extremity, or even death.

Exposed fractures or joints, such as open injuries to the knee, sprained ankle, or other broken bones, are severe health concerns requiring immediate attention.

Osteoporosis accompanied by pain in the thigh or groin, and difficulty walking, could mean an osteoporotic fracture of the hip due to insufficient bone matter.

Septic joints can occur when a bacterial infection invades a joint – in the knee, hip, shoulder, or spine. Any joint is vulnerable to infection, so never hesitate to have it evaluated by a physician.

Chest pain, shortness of breath, and cough manifesting a few weeks after total hip, knee, or shoulder replacement, or any surgery for fractures, could indicate a blood clot to the lungs (pulmonary embolism).

Spontaneous draining of body fluid oozing out of a wound in a post-operative patient requires treatment by a physician. 

Orthopedic Injuries that Are Treatable at Urgent Care Centers

Most orthopedic injuries can be safely treated at an urgent care center. While life-threatening conditions require true emergency-room treatment, orthopedic urgent care is the better option for treatment of conditions that are not life-threatening, as these specialized facilities are less crowded and pressured. 

Orthopedic urgent care centers can address injuries and problems that include:

  • Cast or splint issues
  • Cuts and lacerations
  • Fractures
  • Ligament tears
  • Painful, swollen joints
  • Pediatric injuries
  • Sports injuries
  • Sprains, strains, and discolorations

Injuries that Should Be Treated at Hospital Emergency Rooms

Any injury or condition that may be life-threatening should always be directed to a hospital emergency department for expert care and management. The emergency room is open 24 hours a day, offers top-of-the-line resources, and is the best choice for severe orthopedic injuries if:

  • Arm or leg is severely fractured and/or out of alignment
  • Bone is fractured and exposed through the skin
  • Significant blood loss has occurred
  • Other injuries from falls or accidents are present

Pediatric Emergency Care 

For severely injured children, the emergency room offers the most appropriate environment for handling their injuries immediately. Emergency rooms also feature the widest range of services and access to medical specialists.

Cases that require pediatric care at a hospital emergency room include:

  • A child with a fractured bone remains in pain and is irritable, despite treatment and medication. This could indicate dangerous swelling at the site of the fracture.
  • A child who has no obvious symptoms of an injury but is crying, restless, feverish, and unable to walk. This could indicate a serious hip joint infection.
  • Children with large, deep cuts or wounds.
  • A child who has positional deformities of the limbs.

Family Orthopedic Care in Colorado Springs

The Colorado Center of Orthopaedic Excellence (CCOE) offers expertise spanning the entire spectrum of orthopedic specialties. We can diagnose and treat your orthopedic issues with state-of-the-art treatment options and the personalized care and attention you deserve.

Contact us today and make an appointment with one of our orthopedic doctors for award-winning orthopedic and sports medicine treatment. Fill out our online appointment request form, or call (719) 623-1050 today. We look forward to helping you live a more pain-free and active lifestyle.

When You Should Go to an Orthopedic Urgent Care

Every year, millions of Americans sustain an orthopedic (musculoskeletal) injury either at home, on the job, in their cars (in accidents), or while competing in their favorite sport. Their injuries can range from minor to serious to life-threatening, involving everything from a sprain or strain to a broken bone or a torn ligament.

Regardless of the severity of the injury, our first instinct is usually to rush to the nearest emergency room (ER) or urgent care center, especially if our primary doctor is unavailable.

Often, visiting an ER or a regular urgent care center means waiting a long time to see a doctor. And when you finally do, the doctor can end up referring you to an orthopedic surgeon, which could result in having to wait even longer to see the right specialist for your condition.

In addition, a regular urgent care facility may not have the right equipment to diagnose your acute injury or do the best job of stabilizing the injured body part. And to add inconvenience to injury, a trip to the ER can be very expensive.

Why Should I Go to an Orthopedic Urgent Care Clinic?

Our orthopedic urgent care clinic in Colorado Springs provides service during convenient business hours and helps patients with a wide variety of orthopedic/musculoskeletal injuries and illnesses. You can simply walk in and receive specialized care.

Not only does orthopedic urgent care increase your access to quality healthcare exclusively focused on orthopedic conditions and injuries, but it also decreases costly emergency room visits. This is beneficial not only for patients but also for overloaded emergency departments which can then focus their efforts on more immediate health problems.

Specialized Care for Sports Injuries and Other Orthopedic Issues

Research indicates that about one in six visits to an urgent care center involves some sort of musculoskeletal injury – and nearly 70 percent of the time, these patients end up being referred to an orthopedist. Not only does this delay treatment, but it can cost the patient twice as much.

Unlike a general urgent care center, an orthopedic urgent care clinic is designed to provide swift, cost-effective, specialized quality care. That means you have prompt access to the right specialist and can start your treatment and recovery right then and there.

Orthopedic urgent care clinics are staffed with board-certified or fellowship-trained experts in orthopedic medicine who can diagnose and treat any injuries or conditions affecting your bones, joints, ligaments, tendons, tissue, or cartilage.

In the event that an orthopedist is not available, an orthopedic urgent care clinic has highly skilled and trained physician’s assistants (PAs) on hand to attend to your needs. These PAs have specialized training in the field of orthopedics as well as years of experience in diagnosing and treating most orthopedic conditions. These clinics also have the specialized equipment required to handle practically any orthopedic problem on the spot.

Contact Your Local Orthopedic Urgent Care Clinic Today

Recognizing the need for our patients to always have access to immediate care for orthopedic and sports-related injuries, the Colorado Center of Orthopaedic Excellence recently opened its own orthopedic urgent care and sports medicine clinic. Our goal is to always find a way to provide our patients with access to high-quality, comprehensive orthopedic care, in addition to (non-operative) primary care sports medicine on an urgent care basis.

We understand the importance of primary care physicians and the overall health and wellness of each individual patient. Our clinic is not intended to replace this relationship between patient and primary care physician, but to offer a convenient option when the patient needs care quickly and in a more cost-effective manner. Therefore, our sports medicine specialist, Dr. Jarrod Harrall, collaborates with our orthopedic surgeons and staff to provide our patients with world-class care and service.

To learn more about the benefits of orthopedic urgent care, and what ours has to offer, call Colorado Center for Orthopaedic Excellence at (719) 623-1050 or fill out our online appointment form, or call our Colorado Springs Orthopaedic Urgent Care center at (719) 394-4800 today

How Choosing an Orthopedic Urgent Care can Save You Time

Orthopedic injuries can happen at any time, but there is a good chance of having an accident that results in a broken bone, sprain, or strain over the weekend. Weekend warriors out there playing sports or participating in other outdoor activities run the risk of getting hurt. If you get injured over the weekend or even in the evening, choosing an orthopedic urgent care could save you valuable time in getting the treatment you need. 

When you go to an orthopedic urgent care center, you will be seen by either an orthopedic surgeon or a physician assistant (PA), who has had extensive training in diagnosing and treating orthopedic injuries. He or she would also have assisted in many surgeries, and have experience in determining which injuries need the care of an orthopedic surgeon. 

If you go to the ER, chances are you will get an X-ray and splint with instructions to make an appointment with an orthopedic specialist as soon as possible. If you go to an orthopedic urgent care, in addition to getting to see an orthopedic PA, you can be seen by a surgeon much faster most of the time. Some facilities are able to schedule surgery right away at their affiliated outpatient center.

Here are some of the injuries that can be treated efficiently at an orthopedic urgent care:

  • Broken bones (fractures)
  • Sprains and strains
  • Torn ligaments
  • Sports injuries
  • Foot or ankle injuries
  • Shoulder injuries
  • Knee injuries
  • Hand or wrist injuries

If you live in the Colorado Springs area, arrange to see the orthopedic experts at Colorado Center of Orthopaedic Excellence. From professional sports medicine including the US Olympic team, to treatment of osteoarthritis, our board-certified orthopedic surgeons provide the best possible care. Call (719) 623-1050 for a priority appointment with a skilled and experienced orthopedic provider.