Causes and Effects of Chiropractor Malpractice

Published: 2011-04-11 10:49:48
Author: Abelson Law

  Errors in judgment, mistakes, human error, adherence to practices and procedures no longer considered safe to perform, failure to keep abreast of the latest research, etc., all make for the occurrence of medical malpractice.  Medical professionals are human and capable of significant error during treatment procedures, which may cause harm to their patients, resulting in further medical care, lost wages from time lost on the job, and in extreme cases loss of the ability to function while performing day-to-day life activities due to the catastrophic results of stroke.

Until recently chiropractors have remained steadfast in their belief that they should not be required to provide information regarding the risks of stroke to the performance of cervical spine (neck) adjustments on their patients.
In January, 2010, the Connecticut State Board of Health decided to do something about the issue and held a series of public hearings on the issue of whether a need exists on the part of chiropractors for them to warn their patients of the risk of strokes before performing certain spinal manipulations.   During these hearings, chiropractors from many states, not just Connecticut, were asked to appear and testify.  Some of these chiropractors argued that the Connecticut State Board of Health should not mandate this informed consent.  Their contention was that this mandate would unfairly single out chiropractors from the rest of medical professionals.  They argued that no credible proof exists that the risk of stroke is real.
If the Connecticut State Board of Health had voted in favor of informed consent, it would have been the first state in the U.S. to put such a requirement into place.  However, on June 11, 2010, the Connecticut State Board of Chiropractic Examiners declared that the evidence presented was not sufficient enough to warrant the desired mandatory informed consent featuring the dangers of stroke as a side-effect of joint mobilization, manipulation or adjustment of the cervical spine.

Effects of Spinal Manipulation

Chiropractors who argue that informed consent is unfair are ignoring the substantial amount of scientific literature developed during many years of case studies, as well as other medical evidence including radiology and autopsy reports which confirm the relationship between cervical adjustments and rapid or delayed onset of stroke.
Most chiropractors do not want to inform their patients that the high velocity thrust used on your spine during a cervical adjustment may contribute to degenerative disk disease.  Manipulation may create small tears in ligaments including the annular ring of the intervertebral discs.  It may, by tearing tissue fibers, degrade the health of the spine—especially in patients under the age of forty.
Neck adjustments or cervical manipulations can cause stroke in a number of patients.  During the forceful manipulation, tearing can occur of either the carotid or the vertebral arteries.  These arteries or blood vessels travel up the neck and are responsible for supplying blood to the brain.  When torn, blood clots may form in these vessels.  The clots may then break off and travel upward into the brain and lodge inside a smaller blood vessel or artery and cause the flow of blood to stop in that part of the brain.  Brain tissue dies quickly as a result, and brain tissue that is lost can never be replaced.  This is how strokes occur.
When a chiropractor improperly performs a neck adjustment or neck manipulation, the lining of the artery can be torn by the too forceful and rapid rotation of the neck.

Some Cases of Stroke Appear Latently

In some instances where neck adjustments were performed by chiropractors in their offices, patients have actually seized with stroke and died on the table after the neck adjustment was performed.
In more cases, patients do not suffer a stroke until much later.  This delay in time between the adjustment itself and the onset of stroke often makes it difficult for the family of the person who has suffered the stroke to link the chiropractic treatment to the stroke.  For instance, they may not have been aware that their loved one visited the chiropractor to receive the treatment.
The actual number of strokes resulting from neck adjustments because of this and other factors is unknown, but estimates range from one out of every 4.5 million to one out of every 40,000 cervical manipulations.
Besides the passage of time between the adjustment and the onset of stroke, another factor that comes into play is the fact that chiropractors may not routinely follow up with the progress of their patients the way medical doctors do in regularly scheduled checkups and follow-up appointments.  Due to this lack of follow-ups, chiropractors may never know when a stroke occurs.