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    Medical Emergencies

    What is an Emergency?
    What is an Non-Emergency?
    Where To Seek Treatment


    Singapore General Hospital
    Contributed by Singapore General Hospital

    What is an Emergency?

    An emergency is generally an injury or condition of acute or sudden onset. This in particular refers to bleeding, severe or increasing pain or a change in the vital signs of life like the level of consciousness or difficulty in breathing. A condition that a patient is suffering for a long time or is currently on treatment may take a sudden turn for the worse; this is also an emergency.

    Medical emergencies include:


    • All mass casualty patients
    • Foreign bodies (e.g. Fishbone in throat)
    • Fractures
    • Large Wounds
    • Deep cuts or wounds with profuse bleeding
    • Burns and scalds especially those bigger than the palm of the hand, or located over the face, hands, feet or groin
    • Severe sprains
    • Joint Dislocations
    • Insect stings
    • Snake and animal bites
    • Multiple injuries
    • Suicides
    • Poisoning
    • Lacerations
    • Head injuries, especially those followed by drowsiness, vomiting, bleeding from ear, nose or mouth, or unusual behaviour

    Non Trauma

    • Acute exacerbation of a chronic illness
    • Acute complication of treated condition
    • Acute appendicitis
    • Acute myocardial infarction (Heart attack)
    • Renal colic (Urinary stones)
    • Severe abdominal pain
    • Gross haematuria (Blood in the urine)
    • Haematemesis (Blood in vomitus)
    • Melaena (Passage of black tar like stools)
    • Acute gastroenteritis (e.g. Food poisoning)
    • Abscess
    • Severe pain or increasing pain
    • Severe vomiting
    • High fever
    • Chest pain
    • Acute severe backache
    • Urticaria and severe allergy (e.g. Hives)
    • Acute strokes with one-sided facial weakness, limb weakness or speech abnormalities
    • Premature labour pains 

    What is an Non-Emergency?

    A Non-Emergency is generally an old injury or condition, which has been present for a long time. The patient does not require immediate treatment and there is no immediate threat to patient's life or limb.

    Medical Non-Emergencies include:


    • Old scars
    • Deformities of bones, limbs or spine
    • Joint contractures
    • Old fractures
    • Old unreduced dislocations
    • Chronic discharging wounds
    • Chronic sprains
    • Minor cuts and bruises
    • Slight burns and scalds

    Non Trauma

    • Cerebral palsy, spastics
    • Cervical spondylosis
    • Post polio
    • Old hemiplegias, old strokes
    • Old paraplegia
    • Osteoarthritis knees not acutely worse

    Defined Conditions

    • Chronic vague symptoms like tiredness, dyspepsia not acutely worse
    • Upper respiratory infections without fever
    • Chronic cough
    • Social problem-requests admission (e.g. unable to cope with nursing at home)
    • Psychosomatic problems with no acute presentations
    • Chronic headaches on and off not getting worse acutely
    • Insomnia

    Chronic Aches

    • Chronic whole body ache
    • Chronic backache not getting worse
    • Chronic leg pain, foot pain
    • Long term neck ache
    • Numbness of body for month

    Alimentary System

    • Mild vomiting and diarrhoea with absence of constitutional symptoms
    • Constipation - chronic
    • Loss of appetite, loss of weight
    • Dieting
    • Unobstructed painless intestinal hernia
    • Chronic liver cirrhosis with no worse adverse sequelae
    • Slight abdominal pain with normal vital signs and absence of sweatiness or breathlessness or peritoneal irritation

    Non-urgent Obstetrics and Gynaecological cases

    • Irregular menses, vaginal discharge - chronic in nature

    Non-urgent ENT Conditions

    • Chronic rhinitis
    • Defective hearing
    • Nasal polyp
    • Wax in ears


    • Toothaches that are not associated with swelling of the face and jaw with sweatiness or breathlessness
    • Alcoholics (Police Cases) with normal mental state
    • Drunk driving cases with normal mental state

    Need indepth information ?

    Access our Conditions & Treatments sections for related topics on Heart Attack, Neck Pain and Sacroiliac Joint Pain and Treatment.

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