Share, email, print, bookmark SOURCE reports.

When a medical emergency happens, sometimes it’s obvious that the situation is an emergency. But sometimes it’s not. And in the heat of the moment, when the health of someone you know and love rests on your decision, how do you know what to do?

 When an Emergency Room is Needed

Emergency rooms (ER) treat patients with urgent, acute and life-threatening conditions. For patients suffering from a serious illness or injury, or in danger of dying, visit the closest ER immediately. Appointments are not provided when going to the ER. Patients are seen in order of emergency and pressing medical needs, which means patients may need to wait. For a medical emergency such as a heart attack or stroke, it’s imperative to call 911 for an ambulance instead of driving, so that emergency medical services begin treatment immediately. The hospital ER is the best place for emergency medical care.

“Anytime you’re experiencing a time-sensitive medical emergency, you should go to the Emergency Department where healthcare providers are trained to deliver life-saving treatment for critical conditions that require fast responses,” explains Dr. Lisa Sotir, Chief of Emergency Medicine at MetroWest Medical Center. “For conditions or injury that require immediate medical attention and you know they are life threatening, such as severe bleeding, chest pains or trouble breathing, or other severe injuries or conditions, call 911. Do not drive yourself when in such conditions.”

Symptoms that Require an ER

The following situations are a sure sign of a medical emergency and require immediate attention, whether calling 911 or visiting the nearest emergency room.


  • Severe head injury
  • To your neck or spine, especially if a loss of feeling
  • Serious burn or burn over a large part of the body
  • Broken bone, especially if the bone is pushing through the skin
  • Deep wound or heavy bleeding


  • Severe chest pain or pressure
  • Jaw pain with shortness of breath or chest discomfort
  • Intense back pain with numbness, weakness or fever
  • Severe, debilitating pain anywhere on the body
  • Arm pain with shortness of breath or chest discomfort
  • Unusual or intense headache that comes on fast
  • Digestive problems, especially sudden, severe stomach pain, coupled with nausea and vomiting

Breathing Issues: 

  • Difficulty breathing or choking
  • Passing out or fainting suddenly
  • Serious allergic reaction with trouble breathing or swelling


  • Muscle strain, when tied to the inability to walk, fever or an open wound
  • Inability to speak, see or move
  • Sudden weak or drooping sensation on one side of the body


  • Inhalation of smoke or poisonous fumes
  • Coughing or throwing up blood
  • Electric shock or lightning strike
  • High fever that doesn’t improve with medicine
  • Suicidal thoughts/thoughts of hurting yourself or others

Dr. Sotir advises to plan ahead and familiarize yourself with these guidelines to prepare for a potential emergency. “Think about the hospital emergency room you would use for your family and plan the fastest route to get there safely. Emergency care can save your life if you’re critically sick or injured, so it’s vital to be best prepared,” she says.

Though unexpected, emergency circumstances are part of life. MetroWest Medical Center Emergency Department is ready to help and provide the quality care you need.  For more information, visit our website here.