Is the ER Necessary for a Urinary Tract Infection? | Revere Health

Millions of patients visit the ER for a urinary tract infection (UTI) each year, but research shows that most of these emergency visits are unnecessary. According to the study, the average cost to treat a UTI at an urgent care facility was about $200. The cost to treat the same condition in the ER averaged $2,000.

Considering the 83 percent of people who were treated and released from the ER, researchers estimate $4 billion in annual savings if they had gone to an urgent care facility instead.

How an urgent care can help

Emergency rooms are for just that—emergencies. Although painful, UTIs are not life-threatening and can usually be treated safely and cost effectively at an urgent care center. Common symptoms of UTIs that can be taken care of at an urgent care include:

  • Strong or frequent urges to urinate
  • Passing small amounts of urine
  • A burning feeling while urinating
  • Cloudy, red, pink or brown urine
  • Urine with a strong smell
  • Pelvic pain (in women)

Most urgent care facilities will prescribe an antibiotic and give you information about how to manage your discomfort at home.

stomach doctor patient chart

Are there appropriate times to go to the ER for a UTI?

Although most UTIs can be treated at an urgent care, some symptoms can be a sign of a serious health problem, such as kidney infections, that may warrant an ER visit. These symptoms include:

  • High fever
  • Shaking and chills
  • Severe nausea
  • Vomiting

Pregnant women, the elderly, young children, people with weakened immune systems and people with certain conditions like diabetes or kidney disease may need specialized treatment. Your doctor or nearest urgent care facility can direct you to the appropriate location.

Don’t let a UTI go untreated

Untreated urinary tract infections can lead to life-threatening health conditions if the infection spreads to other parts of the body, such as the kidneys. A kidney infection can lead to sepsis, a complication in which your body becomes overwhelmed while fighting an infection.

Sepsis caused by a urinary tract infection is called urosepsis. Go to the emergency room if you notice these signs of urosepsis:

  • Abnormal heart function
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Inability to think clearly
  • Extreme fatigue

If you suspect a urinary tract infection, contact your doctor. He or she can treat the infection without the need for a trip to the emergency room.

Revere Health Urology specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of urologic cancers, BPH, incontinence, and other pediatric and adult urinary problems.

Sources:

“ER Visits for UTIs Add Almost $4 Billion a Year in Unnecessary Healthcare Costs.” Infection Control Today. https://www.infectioncontroltoday.com/infectious-diseases-conditions/er-visits-utis-add-almost-4-billion-year-unnecessary-healthcare-costs

“Urinary Tract Infection (UTI).” Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/urinary-tract-infection/symptoms-causes/syc-20353447

“Slideshow: A Visual Guide to Urinary Tract Infections.” WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/women/ss/slideshow-urinary-tract-infection-overview

“What is Urosepsis?” Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/urosepsis

This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.

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