Chiropractic Errors - Medical Negligence Solicitors Compensation Claims


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Chiropractic Errors

It was a tragedy when, in Canada, a young woman suffered from a stroke after receiving cervical manipulation by a chiropractor. She felt dizzy after receiving her manipulation and needed emergency treatment that resulted in her becoming paralysed. The manipulation apparently ruptured both vertebral arteries during the adjustment, which blocked blood flow to the brain, causing a stroke.

Chiropractors, on the other hand, adamantly deny that their treatment can cause strokes. Vertebral artery insufficiency is extremely rare and they say there's no reason that this condition is caused by chiropractic manipulation.

There have been well over 500 documented cases where a patient has suffered from a stroke after receiving a neck manipulation and many of these patients have subsequently died. The problem happens when chiropractors forcefully rotate the neck to one side and may overstretch the vertebral artery that runs along the cervical, thoracic and lumbar spine. If the manipulation is too forceful, the blood vessel can disintegrate or dissect, resulting in a blockage and clot in the vessel, and a stroke can happen.

It is difficult to find sound data to resolve the debate between those who say that strokes are secondary to manipulations and those who say strokes have nothing to do with manipulation. One database was analysed that looked at 13 patients within a three-year period of time who presented with head and neck pain several hours to days after receiving chiropractic treatment. In each of these cases, the neurosurgeons were able to find vertebral artery damage to various areas of the vertebral arteries.

All the above people were treated with surgery or drugs. Three patients had permanent neurological deficits as a result of the damage they sustained and one actually died of a massive stroke. The rest of the patients eventually made complete recoveries. According to the neurosurgeons who wrote the study, these kinds of injuries are vastly more common than previously suggested. The less severe cases are probably under reported.

In 2001, all UK neurologists were surveyed, asking them to report cases referred to them regarding neurological complications occurring within 24 hours of cervical spine manipulation over the prior twelve months. The response rate was 74 percent and of these, a total of 35 patients suffered adverse events from chiropractic manipulation.

Manipulation can produce dissections of the cervical and cranial sections of the vertebral and carotid arteries. Given the popularity of chiropractic treatments, this complication is likely under reported. The injuries to the arteries can be severe and a total of 31 percent of patients died in a recent series. Consequently, there may need to be aggressive surgical and endovascular techniques necessary to repair the vessels so the patient doesn't have to have permanent sequelae including death.

The chiropractor also does lumbar manipulations. Between lumbar and cervical manipulations, there is the possibility of nerve root damage. The nerve roots are those that exit the spinal canal on either side of the body and innervate a portion of the body on one side. The manipulation can crush the nerve root in one or more places, resulting in damage to the nerve root. There can be weakness and/or numbness in the affected body area that may or may not recover itself. If there is a nerve root avulsion, there is no way to recover from that and the person may have damage to leg muscles, trunk muscles or arm muscles. If there is not an avulsion but just a pull on the nerve root, the nerve root will eventually recover itself over months or years time.

Chiropractic can help a lot of people but there are risks that are taken when you have manipulations done at the cervical, thoracic or lumbar level. Take these considerations in mind when you see a chiropractor.

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The author of the substantive medical writing on this website is Dr. Christine Traxler MD whose biography can be read here