Thursday, December 16, 2010
Ankle sprains are the most common of all sports injuries. Everyday nearly 10,000 people show up with painful, swollen rolled ankles. Although the Emergency Room may seem like a logical choice when you sprain your ankle, there are five reasons that you might want to reconsider.
1. LONG WAIT
The average time a person waits in the emergency room is over six hours. If you have an ankle sprain, the wait could be even longer. The reason is simple. A sprained ankle is not a life-threatening emergency. Every person who shows up in the Emergency Room with a suspected heart attack, stroke, appendicitis, or whomever gets transported to the hospital via ambulance is marked as a higher priority. Its easy to understand when you’re sitting at home reading this, but not so easy if you are sitting in the ER waiting room with a throbbing ankle.
Care provided in the ER is expensive. In fact, the ER is the most expensive place for the delivery of health care in the United States. The hospital knows that many uninsured patients show up there with very real emergencies that cost a fortune to treat. If a guy with no insurance gets run over by a car, the ER can’t simply turn him away just because he can’t pay. As a result the Emergency Room fees are priced high enough to recoup some of the costs of indigent care. In a sense, when you go to the ER, you are paying your bill and the bill for the guy next to you who can’t pay. You could expect to pay as much as $1,500 for an ankle sprain work-up in the emergency room. If you sprained an ankle and are searching for the most expensive option, this would be it.
3. ANKLE SPRAINS ARE LOW PRIORITY
The fact is that ER docs are busy saving lives. When your complaint is just a painful swollen ankle, you can’t expect to get the same sort of attention as the patient in the stall next to you who’s going into cardiac arrest. You aren’t going to die today from an ankle sprain. In the ER physician’s mind, an ankle sprain is no big deal and one that can be treated later by a specialist. You can only expect basic first aid and a referral to a specialist. You just cannot expect specialized care in the Emergency Department.
ER docs are the most skilled at treated lief-threatening emergencies. But they are not that focused on non-life threatening injuries. You really wouldn’t expect the best treatment for a stroke from an ankle surgeon. By the same token, you can expect an ER Physician to provide the best treatment for your sprained ankle. An award winning-study at the University of Utah found that subtle fractures of the ankle are more than 10 times as common as previously thought. These fractures are frequently misdiagnosed as ankle sprains. Don’t expect an emergency doc to diagnose this type of ankle injury correctly. Without the right diagnosis, you won’t get the best care.
5. INADEQUATE TREATMENT
The number one risk for continued pain, ankle instability and continued ankle problems is inadequate ankle sprain rehabilitation. Because the ER docs don’t focus on ankle injures, they typically give you some basic first aid, a brace and instructions to follow-up with an ankle specialist. The ER doc fully expects you will get the care you need from an ankle specialist later. But many people don’t. The reality is that the final stages of ankle treatment are the most important. You must have an ankle expert guiding you back to strength and health.
If you sprain your ankle, you should know that most ankle sprains will fully recovery...if treated correctly. You need the best treatment to make a full recovery. If you want to see yourself running instead of limping on a weak ankle, you have to start with expert care. Knowing that the ER will send you to a specialist anyway, you can save weeks of recovery, just by starting with an ankle specialist to heal your ankle sprain fast.
Dr. Christopher Segler is a San Francisco based foot surgeon and nationally recognized foot fracture expert. In 2004 he won an award from the American College of Foot & Ankle Surgeons for his research on the accurate diagnosis of difficult to identify fracture patterns in the foot called Lisfranc's injuries (also called tarsometatarsal fracture dislocations). In 2005 he won an award from the American College of Foot & Ankle Surgeons for his research on the accurate diagnosis of difficult to identify fracture patterns in the ankle called Lateral Process Fractures. If you suffered an ankle sprain that needs the very best treatment as fast as possible, he can see you at your home with an emergency house call visit at your home or office. You can also learn more about the typical experience of an ankle sprain patient in San Francisco here. If you have an ankle sprain and just have a question about whether or not it needs to be treated, you can reach him directly at (415) 308-0833.