Emergency Room, Urgent Care, Orthopaedic Clinic — How Do You Decide?

There are many ways to seek medical care for your foot or ankle problem. Especially in the setting of the COVID-19 pandemic, it can be difficult to know whether a trip to the emergency department, orthopaedic urgent care, or routine orthopaedic clinic is best to get proper care while minimizing your risk of exposure to the virus. Here is a guide to help you decide:

Orthopaedic Clinic

Make an appointment with a foot and ankle orthopaedic surgeon if you have...

  • Pain or a problem that has been going on for a few weeks and is getting worse

  • Pain or problem that is bothersome but has not stopped you from being able to perform daily activities or work

  • Pain or problems related to chronic deformities such as flat feet, high arches, bunions, etc.

Orthopaedic Clinic or Urgent Care

Depending on your foot and ankle orthopaedic surgeon's office hours and availability, you may be able to see them for injuries that need more immediate attention. Call your surgeon's office if you have...

  • A new injury and think you sprained or tore something

  • A new injury that causes significant pain but you still can place some weight on the injured foot or ankle

  • A new injury with a minor cut, scrape, or abrasion

  • A new injury to your toe or toenail

If your surgeon is not available, visit your local urgent care clinic for treatment.

Emergency Department

Go to the emergency room if you have...

  • A new injury that causes an obvious deformity to your foot or ankle

  • A new injury with a deep cut and significant bleeding

  • A new injury that causes severe pain that is not relieved with elevation, rest, ice, NSAIDs (e.g., ibuprofen), and Tylenol


Written by Hui Zhang, MD

The American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society (AOFAS) offers information on this site as an educational service. The content of FootCareMD, including text, images, and graphics, is for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to substitute for professional medical advice, diagnoses or treatments. If you need medical advice, use the "Find a Surgeon" search to locate a foot and ankle orthopaedic surgeon in your area.