ENT vs. ER: How to Know Where to Go

Whenever any ailment strikes you, it is natural to feel apprehensive and wonder what is going on. If your symptoms linger or worsen, that apprehension increases. When it comes to issues involving your ears, nose, throat, head, or neck, you may wonder which doctor to see: an ENT doctor or a hospital doctor. Dr. Andrew Diamond explains which healthcare provider suits which situation and how to decide where to head.

Issues Best Treated In-Office vs. In the Hospital

When you think of an ENT doctor, you likely assume they only deal with issues in the ear, nose, and throat. In reality, ENT doctors are trained to treat you both medically and surgically. In reality, ENT doctors are trained to treat you both medically and surgically; they are one of the few medical specialists trained in this complete model of care. This training in otolaryngology allows ENT doctors to not only diagnose any issues you may be having anywhere in your head and neck (excluding eyes, brain, or spine), but also carry out any surgical treatment you may require. This training also allows them to perform many treatments in-office, saving you the expense of having a procedure done in a hospital operating room.

Procedures are better done in a hospital setting if the patient requires monitoring under anesthesia, the level of sedation they require, and the amount of bleeding that may occur during the procedure. For example, any surgeries or procedures involving the throat are typically performed in a hospital OR because of the high supply of blood in the throat.

How to Know Where You Should Go for Treatment

If your symptoms are severe but manageable, your first stop will likely be to your primary care doctor, pediatrician (for children), or internist. They will provide a complete physical exam and determine if your illness or injury would best be treated by an ENT doctor. If this is the case, you will be referred to an ENT to begin treatment.

While ENT doctors are able to treat nearly all head and neck ailments and injuries, there will be instances where you should head to the hospital rather than wait to get in to see your primary care doctor or an ENT doctor. The following symptoms require immediate medical attention:

  • Active bleeding from anywhere on your head or neck that will not stop.
  • Discomfort in your head or neck that is so severe that you’re having trouble breathing or swallowing.

For the majority of cases involving illness or injury to your head, neck, ears, nose, or throat, being seen by your primary care provider and ENT doctor will help you recover. If the situation is more severe and you don’t feel like you can wait to be seen in-office, you should always proceed to the nearest emergency room for immediate medical attention.

If you or someone in your care is seeking care from an ENT doctor in the greater Atlanta area, our office would love to assist you. Contact us today to schedule an appointment with one of our many ENT doctors!