Jan 27, 2017


Announcer: Is it bad enough to go to the emergency room? Or isn't it? You're listening to ER or Not on The Scope.

Interviewer: It's time for another edition of ER or Not, it's a game where you get to play along and determine whether a condition that we've talk about here warrants a trip to the ER or not? Today, we're with Dr. Troy Madsen as always. He's an emergency room physician at University of Utah Health Care. All right the scenario today is difficulty breathing. What do you think? ER or not?

Dr. Madsen: So difficulty breathing. So when we talk about issues that we had seen in the ER, my thought process is ABC. First thing is airway, and the second thing is breathing. So if you're having difficulty breathing, for me that is absolutely reason to go to the ER, and when I hear someone that's having difficulty breathing I think of a number of things.

Maybe they have asthma, maybe they've had an allergic reaction that's closing off their airway and making their lungs tight. Maybe they have a blood clot in their lungs, maybe they have heart failure, maybe they have a heart attack. All these things are serious things, these are not things you're going to be taking lightly. You're not going to call your doctor and say, "Hey, I'm having difficulty breathing can I get an appointment in a week?"

If this is something that's come on suddenly, you're having trouble getting deep breaths in, you feel shorter breath, your lungs feel tight, your throat feels tight, those are absolutely reasons not only to go to the ER but you may even consider calling 911.

Interviewer: Wow. So any difficulty breathing is probably something you need to take seriously?

Dr. Madsen: It is something you need to take seriously.

Interviewer: I know. I'm trying to make that very all inclusive.

Dr. Madsen: Yeah.

Interviewer: I mean is it?

Dr. Madsen: I don't want to tell you to call 911 right off the bat. Maybe you have a history of asthma and you're familiar with this and you've been exercising, and it's cold outside and your lungs feel a little bit tight and you know you've had experienced with it. You know if you use your inhaler, your lungs are going to open up, you're going to feel fine. I mean that's one kind of example there.

But here I think we're talking more about the person who typically is not used to having this throat tightness or lung tightness and suddenly they feel their lungs are tight, their throat is tight, they can't get a deep breath, that's the reason to get to the ER. Again, depending how severe it is, even call 911 or have a family member call 911 to go by ambulance.

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