Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Car Accidents, Emergency Rooms, And "GOMER'S"--And The Importance Of Following Up With Your Doctor

By: Brian R. Wilson, Esq

Canton Ohio


You've probably never heard of the term "GOMER" unless you are in the medical profession. Actually, it is an acronym  (G.O.M.E.R.) used by ER doctors and staff it stands for "Get Out Of My Emergency Room."

Harsh? Perhaps. But if you've been in an auto accident, it's helpful to understand the mindset of emergency room medicine, and how it affects your injuries and future treatment.

Emergency rooms see just about every calamity known to society, and many are life and death or potentially serious. Gunshot wounds and trauma, or folks on the verge of strokes or heart attacks are just a few of a long laundry list of injuries or ailments ER personnel see on a frequent basis.

And, given our access to health care issues in this country, many people use the local ER as their primary care doctor as a means of receiving medical attention. What's more, the scourge of increasing drug dependency has led to the local ER becoming a target for those who seek a prescription to fuel their dependencies.

All this has led to ER rooms becoming increasingly crowded and frenetic.

Every day in the ER involves "triaging" or the prioritizing the treatment of patients based upon the seriousness or potential seriousness of  the injury or condition.  If you've ever waited in the ER for a few hours for that foot or knee sprain, you've probably been "triaged," meaning that your treatment was put on the back burner while others with potentially more serious conditions were seen ahead of you.

In the absence of obvious, serious trauma like head or spine injuries, fractures, or internal injuries many car accident victims become "GOMER's." They are frequently are worked up rather quickly to rule out serious injuries, and are sent on their way.

And in this "treat em and street em" mindset, many injuries and conditions are not given serious attention, or are outright missed altogether. A few recent examples from car accident cases we've handled illustrate the occasional incompleteness of ER care:

Case No 1: Client is involved in a high speed, serious, head on crash with a drunk driver. His complaints of pain in the sternum or "breastbone" and mid back pain are noted in the records. A chest X Ray is ordered, which confirms a fractured sternum, but no spine X Rays are ordered. He is treated and released with a "back sprain." Days later, due to unrelenting pain in the mid back, he follows up with a health care provider, who orders a spine X ray. Two compression fractures are found in his thoracic spine.

Case No 2: After a serious fall at a grocery store, client is taken to the local ER. He has serious swelling in his knee. An X Ray of the knee reveals no fracture, and the client is discharged with a "knee sprain." Days later, due to inability to walk or even bend the knee, an orthopaedic physician orders an MRI, which reveals a complete tear of his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and  a complete tear of his medial collateral ligament (MCL) requiring immediate surgery.

Your takeaway if you've been in a car collision and went to the ER? Don't assume your "discharge diagnosis" was correct, and follow up as soon as possible with your family physician or other specialist if you are having any continued problems or discomfort.

You're probably much less likely to be GOMER'ed in those settings.