Please note: This information was current at the time of publication. But medical information is always changing, and some information given here may be out of date. For regularly updated information on a variety of health topics, please visit, the AAFP patient education website.

Information from Your Family Doctor

Emergencies in the Family Medicine Office


Am Fam Physician. 2007 Jun 1;75(11):1686.

  See related article on medical emergencies.

What is an office emergency?

An office emergency is when someone in the doctor's office needs emergency medical care. For example, a patient may have a stroke, or a child may be brought in with meningitis.

What can I expect if I have an emergency in the office?

Many medical problems can be treated in the doctor's office, but some problems need to be treated in an emergency room or urgent care center. If you or your child has a medical problem that is more urgent than you thought, your doctor may send you to the emergency room or urgent care center, or call an ambulance.

How can I prevent office emergencies?

Usually, emergencies can't be prevented. But you can ask your doctor what medical emergencies might happen to you or your family. Your doctor can tell you if they can be treated in the office.

Call your doctor and tell him or her about your symptoms. Some medical emergencies can be taken care of better in the emergency room than in an urgent care center, but an urgent care center may have a shorter wait time. Ask your doctor where you should be treated.

How can I prepare for medical emergencies?

  • Find out if you or your family are at risk of any medical problems.

  • Talk to your doctor about what you should do if an emergency happens.

  • Find out which emergency room or urgent care center you should go to in an emergency.

  • Know when your doctor's office is open and how to contact your doctor when the office is closed.

  • Keep a list of the medicines you take and your medical problems.

  • Know how to call an ambulance if you do not have 9-1-1 service in your community.

  • Learn basic first aid skills.

Where can I find more information?

Your doctor

The American Heart Association

Web site:

This handout is provided to you by your family doctor and the American Academy of Family Physicians. Other health-related information is available from the AAFP online at

This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.


Copyright © 2007 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.
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