Medical City Healthcare - January 11, 2021

Delaying medical care can have dire consequences, especially during emergencies. Unfortunately, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, that’s exactly what’s been happening. The number of patients coming in to emergency rooms for time–sensitive conditions such as heart attack, stroke and appendicitis have decreased in hospitals across the country, new data suggests.

People who have had COVID-19, whether or not they had symptoms, also need to be aware that the virus may cause side effects—such as myocarditis, or inflammation of the heart muscle—that can lead to an emergency situation if left untreated.

Read on to find out why emergency care should never be delayed and how Medical City is keeping patients safe.

Why time matters in an emergency.

  • Stroke: When it comes to stroke, time is brain. Several million brain cells die every minute during a stroke. Delaying care for even just a few minutes can increase brain damage and cause permanent disability and even death. In the treatment of ischemic strokes, which are caused by blood clots, the clot-busting drug tPA can only be administered within the first few hours after symptoms begin.
  • Heart attack: The longer a heart attack goes untreated, the more likely it is that a greater amount of heart muscle will become damaged. This can lead to heart failure, abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmia) and death. The best chance for survival and minimized damage depends on how quickly a person can recognize symptoms, get to the ER and be treated in the cath lab.
  • Appendicitis: After 24-48 hours of an appendicitis attack, the appendix can rupture. When this happens, the potentially life-threatening infection spills into the abdomen and can make a person very sick. If someone is having stomach or back pain and you are suspicious of appendicitis, it’s important to call your doctor or head to the ER immediately.
  • COVID–19 and heart issues: While the link between COVID-19 and myocarditis is still being studied, it has long been established that viral infections are the leading cause of myocarditis. According to the Myocarditis Foundation, untreated myocarditis can cause heart failure and is responsible for 5% to 20% of sudden cardiac death in young adults. A simple blood test can help physicians diagnose myocarditis, so it’s important to see a doctor for symptoms such as fatigue, shortness of breath and chest pain. Read more in What to know about COVID–19 and myocarditis.

When to go to the ER.

If you’re having symptoms that would normally send you to the ER, you should still go, even during the pandemic. Our ERs are open, safe and staffed with expert clinicians who are ready to provide treatment for all types of emergencies, whether COVID-19-related or not.

Signs that you should seek immediate emergency medical care include:

  • Head injury, loss of consciousness or other major trauma
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Signs of a stroke, such as one-sided weakness or numbness
  • Signs of a heart attack, such as chest pain
  • High fever
  • Open fracture (a broken bone sticking out of the skin)
  • Uncontrollable pain or bleeding
  • Breathing problems

Medical City Healthcare hospitals remain safe places for care.

The perception that hospitals might expose an individual to infection or COVID–19 is simply not true. Our hospitals have extensive safety measures in place to prevent infectious disease from spreading. In fact, they’re something we’ve dealt with on a daily basis long before the coronavirus crisis. It’s much more dangerous to your health to put off seeking emergency care than it is in going to a hospital at this time.

At Medical City Healthcare, the health and safety of our patients, caregivers and communities is our top priority. We maintain strict precautions and infection prevention measures throughout all our medical facilities.

Here are just a few of the extra precautions we’re taking to keep patients safe:

  • Universal masking and screening for all employees, physicians, approved visitors and patients
  • Ultra-clean environment with enhanced sanitation and validation to ensure cleaning is complete and effective
  • COVID-19 testing when appropriate for patients prior to scheduled procedures
  • Dedicated entrances for surgical patients, limited visitation and social distancing throughout our facilities
  • Virtual visitation using technology to keep families connected and informed
  • Virtual appointments available with trusted physician specialists and urgent care doctors

Expert emergency care close to home.

“Our hospitals are safe places for care that can’t wait,” says Kevin Martens, a Medical City Healthcare emergency medicine physician. “The things that you would have normally come into the hospital for last year, we’re definitely ready to treat you. It’s fully safe for you to come.”

Don’t delay care if you or a loved one are experiencing emergency symptoms. Time matters and can greatly affect your treatment and your health outcome. Just remember, we are here for you and we are well equipped to safely handle any health concern you may have.

Medical City Healthcare provides comprehensive emergency and advanced cardiology services. Find care at a location near you.

At Medical City Healthcare, we’re dedicated to the care and improvement of human life. So, we hope you’ll Take Care!

For more information, call our Ask a Nurse hotline 24/7 or use Find a Doctor online.

You can also get care for minor injuries or illness at CareNow Urgent Care or visit Medical City Virtual Care for non-emergency medical treatment from your computer or smartphone.

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Originally published on Medical City Healthcare’s Take Care blog on 5/14/2020.