Chiropractic Manipulation Causes Stroke

Case Overview:
Plaintiff is 62 years old. Went to a chiropractor for treatment of a pinched nerve in his back. He wanted to get chiropractic treatment before going hunting. The chiropractor apparently tore his vertebral artery on the left. His wife took him to Hospital where he was diagnosed with a stroke secondary to the same. He was flown to the Clinic for treatment and was admitted there for 6 days. At discharge he was in Rehab for another 6 days. He had quit PT because he said he could do the same things at home that they were doing for him. His wife states that he speaks better than he had but still has deficits. He also had choking that is slowly improving. He staggers when he walks, walks with a broad-based antalgic gait with a walker (although his wife says he doesn’t use the walker as much as he should).

Issue:
Is it negligence for a chiropractor to twist the neck in such a way as to tear the vertebral artery?

medQuest Expert Responses:
Yes- it is negligence for a chiropractor to twist the neck and tear the vertebral artery.
Dr PS – Chiropractor.

This is the most common form of stroke following cervical spine manipulation- especially at the C1-C2 level which contains theV3 segment of the vertebral artery where it is most susceptible to trauma. This results in the classic Wallenberg syndrome due to disrupted blood flow to the PICA (posterior inferior cerebellar artery) which is the first branch of the vertebral artery. Pt’s symptoms seem to be consistent with this syndrome.
Dr CB – Chiropractor