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The Perspective
The Perspective

December 20, 2017

Your Emergency Department answering your questions

Photo of Jason Fischer in front of ED

By Jason Fischer, Division Head, Emergency Medicine Division

I’ve been a paediatric emergency physician for six years and I can say this field offers unique challenges. Emergencies are more sporadic and more unpredictable, with incredibly high stakes. What is predictable are the commonly occurring myths and misconceptions about emergency medicine that we see all the time. I surveyed my team and we’ve compiled a list of your most frequently asked questions with our answers.

Although we get these questions year-round it’s particularly important during cold and flu season to be aware of the facts and know when a trip to the Emergency Department is needed and when it isn’t. Please consider the answers below before heading to your local Emergency Department this winter.

1. Do I need to go to the Emergency Department for a referral to a sub-specialist?

Referrals to sub-specialists should always be made by your family doctor or pediatrician. These referrals do not require a visit to the Emergency Department. In fact, emergency medicine physicians DO NOT make referrals due to lack of patient continuity. This includes referrals for second opinions.
2. Can I see a sub-specialist faster by going to the Emergency Department?

Sub-specialist consultations in the Emergency Department are reserved for the most emergent patients. Examples include: seeing an Orthopedic Surgeon for management of a severely broken bone or seeing a Neurologist for a seizure that will not stop.

3. Can I get a MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) faster by going to the Emergency Department?

MRI and any other medical imaging in the Emergency Department is reserved for the most emergent patients. Examples include: ultrasound for suspected appendicitis or CT scan for suspected bleeding inside the head or MRI for suspected brain infections.

4. Does the Emergency Department do check-ups for babies?

The Emergency Department is for ill and injured children.  Well child check-ups should be completed with your family doctor or paediatrician. This also includes vaccinations or outpatient laboratory testing.

5. How do I know when to come to the Emergency Department with my sick child?

Not all sick children need to come to the Emergency Department for care.  Our website AboutKidsHealth can help you determine if an Emergency Department visit is needed for common symptoms like fever, vomiting and cough. Telehealth Ontario 1-866-797-0000 can also help in deciding whether an Emergency Department visit is needed.