ER, Urgent Care or Orthopaedic Urgent Clinic?

Injuries and illnesses occur when you least expect them. Local urgent care centers can give a person the medical care they need, usually at a fraction of the cost or time of an emergency room (ER). They provide care for a wide variety of sicknesses, diseases and other conditions. However, there is another type of walk-in care center that treats musculoskeletal injuries such as fractures, sprains and strains from falls and impact accidents. These are orthopaedic urgent care clinics.

Q: What are the benefits of going to an orthopaedic urgent care clinic versus an urgent care center or emergency room?


A: Orthopaedic providers are specialty trained in bone, muscle and joint injuries. At orthopaedic urgent care clinics, same-day treatment, on-site X-ray and, if necessary, follow-up visits and care with an ortho specialist are provided. Emergency rooms and urgent care centers are staffed by doctors and staff who are skilled at identifying and offering immediate treatment for a wide variety of conditions, but they refer patients to specialists for ongoing and follow-up treatment.


ent. In the event of an orthopaedic (bone, muscle and joint) injury, patients are referred to an orthopedic specialist anyway. Orthopaedic urgent care clinics cut out the middle man and offer seamless specialized care. And since most are an extension of an orthopedic practice, the cost is the same as a regular office visit rather than the high cost of ER visits.

Q: What kind of injuries can be treated at an orthopaedic urgent care clinic?

A: Ninety-nine percent of NEW (less than a month old) musculoskeletal injuries are appropriate for a visit to one of these centers, including:

  • Ankle, wrist and hand sprains/fractures
  • Foot, ankle and leg injuries
  • Shoulder injuries (fractures and rotator cuff)
  • Knee injuries (sprains/ACL tears/meniscus tears)
  • Back, neck and spine injuries less than one-month-old
  • Back, neck and spine flare-ups from a previous condition
  • Worksite or industrial accidents
  • Majority of sports injuries

Q: When is going to the ER or my primary care provider the better choice?

A: It is best to go to the ER if:

  • There is chronic, disabling and long-term back, hip or leg pain.
  • You have a fracture with the bone visible or with an open wound over the fracture. Most often, these are considered trauma injuries and require surgical intervention.
  • Fainting spells, seizures, neurologic-related signs or symptoms.
  • Deep lacerations (cuts) and bleeding.
  • Hip or shoulder dislocations.

It is best to go to a primary care or another provider, urgent care center or a non-orthopaedic specialist for:

  • Injuries to the eye.
  • Cold, flu, respiratory and stomach issues.
  • Medical conditions that are not related to bones, joints, muscles and their supporting structures.

Q: Do patients see a surgeon during orthopaedic urgent care clinics visits?

A: No. Most of the walk-in orthopaedic urgent care clinics are staffed by medical providers such as Certified Physician Assistants, or PAs, who have completed special training in orthopaedics. There is always an orthopaedic surgeon on call for more serious injuries.

Q: What exactly is a PA?

A: Certified Physician Assistants are not “assistants” the way most think of the word. PAs have the extensive training needed to function with physician oversight but do not require direct supervision. They have significant years of experience and specialized training in the evaluation, diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. They must pass a national exam, be state-licensed, recertify every 10 years and complete 100 hours of continuing medical education every two years.

Q: What can orthopaedic PAs do?

A: Physician Assistants who specialize in orthopaedics are trained to examine patients to determine what injuries require further diagnostic care and treatment, such as imaging services (MRI, X-Ray, CT, Ultrasound), splinting, crutches, compression, immobilization, pain medications and those injuries which require immediate care, such as surgery. They prescribe medications, develop treatment plans, assist surgeons in surgery and are trusted members of a patient’s care team. Most of all, they ensure patients receive seamless, comprehensive care, often much sooner than if the patient was to schedule a visit with a surgeon.

Q: Is there a Flagstaff-based walk-in orthopaedic urgent care clinic?

A: Yes. Urgent Ortho, a service of Northern Arizona Orthopaedics, is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Urgent Ortho is located at the Summit Center at 1485 N. Turquoise Drive.

Q: Do I need to make an appointment at Urgent Ortho?

A: Appointments are not needed; patients are seen on a first-come, first-served basis during business hours. After hours, call your primary care provider or go to the nearest ER or urgent care for medical attention. For more information, feel free to call us at 928-226-2900 or click HERE: