Millions of people use chiropractic treatment each year for resolution of musculoskeletal discomfort. The problem is that some chiropractors do not properly or adequately warn their patients about the potential risks inherent in chiropractic treatment. For decades, chiropractic malpractice insurance carriers have funded “research” to conclude that chiropractic treatment cannot cause serious injuries like stroke and arterial dissections. The objective, independent medical journals that have investigated the issue and concluded that chiropractic manipulation can and does cause strokes and dissections. In fact, these objective medical studies have concluded that patients who undergo chiropractic manipulation are five times more likely to have a dissection and/or stroke.
How Does Chiropractic Manipulation Cause A Dissection?
The most common type of chiropractic manipulation is called “high velocity, low amplitude.” This involves the chiropractor turning the patient’s head, using his or her finger to push down on the neck, and then turning the patient’s head even further.
This treatment puts excessive force and tension on the vertebral artery. When the vertebral artery is twisted and pressed, it can tear. This is called a vertebral artery dissection. There is one particular part of the vertebral artery that is most likely to be damaged by chiropractic manipulation. It’s called the V3 segment. It is in the neck, otherwise known as the cervical portion of the spine.
The reason it is most likely to be damaged with manipulation is because that is where the vertebral artery leaves the opening of the spine and goes into the head. If the chiropractor uses too much force in turning the head and pushing on the neck, that part of the artery can be damaged, causing a tear, or dissection.
How Does Chiropractic Manipulation Cause a Stroke?
Our arteries carry blood from the heart to the rest of our body. Throughout the day, as our body moves, the arteries can stretch and bend, too. If too much force is applied to an artery, it can dissect, or tear. If an artery tears in a dissection, blood comes out of the wall of the artery and into the middle.
Our body automatically clots the blood so we don’t bleed out and die. Clots form in as little as 20 seconds. These clots then cut off the blood supply to the brain because they narrow the artery and prevent blood from flowing normally. This process is called a stroke. Depending on how many clots there are, and which parts of the brain don’t get oxygen, a person can suffer multiple strokes in different parts of the brain.
What Happens To a Patient Who Suffers A Dissection or Stroke?
When blood flow is cut off to the brain, oxygen is also cut off. That causes the brain tissue to die. These infarcts result in brain damage. Stroke is one of the leading causes of brain injury. Patients with a brain injury (either a traumatic brain injury or a mild traumatic brain injury) will have millions of dollars in future medical care to treat for their injuries. Most people with brain injuries are unable to care for themselves and need attendant care. It is important to understand that attendant care is not covered by any health insurance plan, including Medicare or Medicaid. This means that if you need attendant care for your brain injury, you will be out of pocket for those very high costs. Because of this, your brain injury lawyer and chiropractic malpractice lawyer will need to retain a lifecare planner and economist to calculate all of the future care needs related to the chiropractic injuries.
What are the defenses to chiropractic malpractice?
As mentioned above, for decades, chiropractic malpractice insurance carriers have bombarded the public with misleading information that chiropractors cannot cause these life-changing injuries. If the stroke happens at the chiropractor’s office, it is almost a certainty that he chiropractor caused it. If the symptoms start within a couple hours of leaving the chiropractor’s office, it is also almost certainly caused by the chiropractor. Defense experts argue that after the first day or two, it is less likely the chiropractor caused the stroke or dissection, but rather it was a spontaneous occurrence. It is part of the lawyer’s job to work the case up and to prove when the stroke and dissection occurred using the imaging studies.
If you or a loved one suffered a stroke or vertebral artery dissection due to chiropractic malpractice, contact our brain injury lawyers at Snyder & Wenner today.