Case In Point: Did the DC deserve a defense?

Published: 2010-07-06 21:28:07
Author: Barbara Bellione | ChiroEco | March 2010

The claimant is a 55-year-old divorced father of two adult children.

He is a heavy smoker and an alcoholic with a host of medical problems including hypertensive cardiovascular disease, sleep apnea, morbid obesity, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

When the claimant was in his 20s, he was involved in a motorcycle accident, which crushed and shortened his right femur by approximately one inch. As a result, he was left with a gait discrepancy and subsequent low back pain.

He had also been unemployed and on disability for four years because he developed diaphragmatic paralysis on the right when he suffered smoke inhalation during a house fire.

One morning the claimant awoke with neck pain. As the pain continued throughout the day, he decided to obtain chiropractic treatment and made an appointment for the following day.

The claimant presented to the chiropractor as a new patient with a chief complaint of worsening neck pain that radiated bilaterally and was exacerbated by coughing and looking up. He denied that the pain was related to any trauma. The claimant’s blood pressure was 181/120 and his pulse was 81.

Since the claimant’s blood pressure was above his personal treatment protocol range, the chiropractor initially declined to provide a chiropractic adjustment and referred the claimant to his primary-care physician for a blood pressure evaluation.

The claimant, however, pressured the chiropractor for an adjustment and stated he had just forgotten to take his blood pressure medication that morning. The chiropractor succumbed to the claimant’s persistence and provided a cervical adjustment.

The following day the claimant was in significant pain with weakness of all four extremities and impaired fine-motor function that hindered his ability to walk. He went to the emergency room where an MRI showed a herniated disc at C3-C4 with cord compression. A neurosurgeon was consulted, and the claimant underwent a C3-C4 discectomy with bone graft fusion.

The claimant had a successful post-operative outcome that improved his arm and hand strength, as well as his gait. He did, however, have some residual dexterity problems with his hands and minor numbness in his forearms.

As a result, the claimant hired an attorney who sent the chiropractor a letter making a presuit claim, stating he wanted to give the chiropractor a chance to settle the claim prior to a lawsuit being filed.

The claimant alleged the chiropractor failed to properly examine, evaluate, x-ray, and document his situation. He also claimed the chiropractor was negligent in his spinal adjustment of the neck, which led to or exacerbated a disk herniation.

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