Reports of serious complications of chiropractic manipulation keep on coming. Take this one, for instance:
My daughter went for a routine chiropractor appointment. Now she’s paralysed – 1:20 000 chiropractic neck manipulations result in stroke from vertebral artery dissection.
Or take a recent article by US neurosurgeons:
Cranio-cervical artery dissection (CeAD) is a common cause of cerebrovascular events in young subjects with no clear treatment strategy established. This study evaluated the incidence of major adverse cardiovascular events (MACE) in CeAD patients treated with and without stent placement. COMParative effectiveness of treatment options in cervical Artery diSSection (COMPASS) is a single high-volume center observational, retrospective longitudinal registry that enrolled consecutive CeAD patients over a 2-year period. Patients were ≥ 18 years of age with confirmed extra- or intracranial CeAD on imaging. Enrolled participants were followed for 1 year evaluating MACE as the primary endpoint.
One-hundred ten patients were enrolled (age 53 ± 15.9, 56% Caucasian, and 50% male, BMI 28.9 ± 9.2). Grade I, II, III, and IV blunt vascular injury was noted in 16%, 33%, 19%, and 32%, respectively. Predisposing factors were noted in the majority (78%), including
- carrying a heavy load,
- chiropractic manipulation.
Stent was placed in 10 (10%) subjects (extracranial carotid n = 9; intracranial carotid n = 1; extracranial vertebral n = 1) at the physician’s discretion along with medical management. Reasons for stent placement were early development of high-grade stenosis or expanding pseudoaneurysm. Stented patients experienced no procedural or in-hospital complications and no MACE between discharge and 1 year follow up. CeAD patients treated with medical management only had 14% MACE at 1 year.
The authors concluded that in this single high-volume center cohort of CeAD patients, stenting was found to be beneficial, particularly with development of high-grade stenosis or expanding pseudoaneurysm. These results warrant confirmation by a randomized clinical trial.
Yes, I know: this study was not meant to investigate the link between chiropractic manipulations and CeAD. The finding that chiropractic manipulation is a predisposing factor for CeAD is entirely incidental. But it is an important finding nevertheless.
Chiropractors will laugh about the notion that manipulation is a risk factor akin to sneezing and thus try to trivialize the danger of their treatments. I would then point out that sneezing is unavoidable and fulfills a purpose. Chiropractic manipulations do neither.