When is it an Emergency?

Red telephoneThe most important part of dealing with any potential emergency is timely communication of the problem. Medical emergencies come in two types—definitely and possibly. Be sure to talk to your PH specialist about emergency situations before they happen, and read on for general recommendations to help you make the right phone call to the right people at the right time.

Definite Emergencies

If you find yourself in the midst of an immediate emergency, call 911. Tell them you have a life-threatening emergency and ask them to dispatch an ambulance immediately. Immediate emergencies for PH patients include:

  • If you are on intravenous medication and your catheter comes out or cracks, or your pump stops working. Flolan and Veletri each have a half-life of between two and a half and six minutes. That means the amount of medicine in your body decreases by half in just a couple of minutes. If you stop the medicine for more than a few minutes, it can be fatal. IV Remodulin has a half-life of between two and four hours. While the half-life is longer, you should still treat this as an immediate emergency. Learn more
  • Any emergency situations outlined in advance by your PH doctor. Talk to your medical team in advance about any additional situations that might constitute immediate, life-threatening emergencies given your individual health status and treatment plan.

Possible Emergencies

Not all medical situations that take you off guard will require a trip to the hospital. If you're not sure if you're experiencing an emergency situation, call your doctor or clinic and talk to someone as quickly as possible. Give brief and concise information, and answer all questions carefully. Based on the information you provide, the medical professional may call in a prescription, refer you to another doctor, ask you to come in to the hospital, or ask you to hang up and call 911. Possible emergencies include:

  • High or prolonged fever, especially if you have a central line catheter
  • Fainting or near-fainting
  • Coughing up blood or colored mucus
  • Chest pain
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeats
  • Unusual (for you) shortness of breath
  • Unusual (for you) fluid retention
  • Dark, tarry stool if you are on blood thinners such as warfarin (Coumadin)
   

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The information provided on the PHA website is provided for general information only. It is not intended as legal, medical or other professional advice, and should not be relied upon as a substitute for consultations with qualified professionals who are familiar with your individual needs.

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The National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD) awarded PHA the Abbey S. Meyers Leadership Award in 2012 for outstanding service to PHA members in advocacy, education and other key areas.