Emergency Room or Urgent Care: Where should I go?

by | Apr 14, 2022 | Uncategorized

“Should I go to the emergency room or urgent care?” It’s one of the most common questions in today’s health care landscape. With more options than ever before to get treatment, it can be difficult to know where you should go when a sudden health concern arises. 

Both emergency rooms and urgent care offer fast, same-day care, but the outcomes medically and financially can be as different as the reason to visit them. 

Put simply: for sudden, unexpected non-life-threatening conditions that need fast attention, go to an urgent care facility – like Trenton or Grosse Ile Urgent Care. But for immediate care that is life-threatening or could permanently impair your life, you should visit your nearest emergency room.


It’s a Sunday morning, and you’re carrying laundry up some stairs when suddenly you trip and fall awkwardly on your knee. Swelling becomes quickly present around your knee cap, you have a heavy limp, and some bruising – now what? 

While your knee is in pain, you’re not worried about losing your leg or a complication that could threaten your life. In fact, if it had been during the week, you might have went to see a family doctor to get it checked and cared for. 

An urgent care facility is where you should go in between your primary care provider and the Emergency Department. A minor illness or injury that can’t wait until tomorrow? Urgent Care is the best option. 

This is the kind of situation urgent cares excel in: an URGENT situation that does not need emergency care. Here are just some conditions you might visit an urgent care for:

  • Back or muscle pain
  • Bronchitis
  • Diarrhea
  • Earache
  • Skin conditions
  • Sprains or joint pain
  • Upper respiratory infection
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Vomiting
  • Migraines
  • Vertigo/Dizziness
  • Allergic Reactions
  • Yeast Infections
  • STDs
  • Skin Cuts & Wounds/Stapling & Suturing
  • Fish Hook & Foreign Object Removal
  • Burns
  • Boils & Abscesses/Incise & Drain
  • Bone Fractures, Sprains & Splinting

An emergency room or department, on the other hand, treats life- or limb-threatening health conditions. When you require IMMEDIATE medical attention, the ER is the only place you should go. 


Emergency departments are always open and prepared to handle almost any situation at any time (like a stroke, heart attack, or traumatic injuries). ERs also have quick access to neurologists, cardiologists, and surgeons, and other advanced medical specialists needed in life-or-death situations. Some symptoms that are best evaluated in an emergency room include:

  • Chest pain or pressure
  • Compound fracture (bone that protrudes through the skin)
  • Head injuries
  • Pneumonia
  • Seizures
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sudden, severe headache, or paralysis or weakness
  • Uncontrolled bleeding
  • A sudden change in mental status (e.g. confusion)
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Multiple injuries or a possible broken bone in the ribs, skull, face, back, or pelvis


An emergency room can handle anything an urgent care can, but you likely will spend a lot of time waiting for treatment in an ER. The average wait time to see a doctor in a U.S. emergency room is about 30 minutes – and the less urgent your situation, the longer you’ll wait. The median treatment time is about an hour-and-a-half.

Conversely, urgent care facilities can have patients in and out their doors in 60 minutes or significantly less. You’re also probably going to pay a lot more to visit an ER than an urgent care. According to healthgrades.com, the average cost of an ER visit “is about $1,300 to $1,400. But many urgent care visits cost an average of $150.”

Emergency rooms or urgent care both provide excellent care to people in need of quick medical care. Just remember this good rule of thumb: If it threatens life or limb, go to an emergency room; if not, an urgent care likely will save you time and money for the same service. 

Downriver Clinics are privately-owned and operated walk-in urgent care clinics with years of experience serving Trenton and Grosse Ile, Michigan. We are dedicated to providing the highest quality and most cost-effective medical care in the Downriver community.