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Chiropractor Malpractice Can Cause Stroke and Serious Injury

Steve Wagner

When Healing Hurts

Chiropractic is a form of alternative medicine focused on disorders of the musculoskeletal and nervous systems, with heavy emphasis on treating the spine and neck. Doctors of chiropractic focus on proper alignment of the musculoskeletal system both as a solution for pain and as a treatment that more effectively allows the body to heal itself. The American Chiropractic Association estimates that thirty million individuals seek chiropractic treatment each year. While many of these patients are satisfied with their treatment, sometimes things go wrong. In such instances, serious injury can occur.

Chiropractic Malpractice

A chiropractor can be sued for malpractice if he or she fails to follow the accepted standard of care in the chiropractic profession. Examples might include:

  • Lack of informed consent, in which the chiropractor does not tell the patient about the risks and side effects related to a particular treatment.
  • Failure to Diagnose or Properly Diagnose a Medical Condition, wherein the chiropractor does not diagnose an urgent condition, thereby preventing the patient from getting appropriate care. A chiropractor who fails to diagnose a condition or makes an inaccurate diagnosis, whose subsequent treatment causes death or injury may also be liable for malpractice.
  • Negligent manipulation of the body, which causes a new injury to the patient or aggravates an existing injury.

Chiropractic malpractice suits are not as common as medical malpractice suits, largely because the negligence of chiropractors does not usually result in serious injury. That said there are significant injuries that can occur from chiropractic adjustment, such as disc herniation, spinal stenosis, muscle weakness, bladder and bowel paralysis, and facial paralysis. In addition, more minor but annoying injuries such as headaches, numbness or tingling, and vertigo may also arise after a visit to
your chiropractor.

The most life-threatening and traumatic injuries that occur with some frequency as a result of chiropractic adjustment are vertebral or cervical artery dissection (VAD or CAD), stroke, and paralysis. Particularly with these cases, plaintiffs often find a very level playing fields, as chiropractors are not viewed with as much deference as traditional medical doctors.

Vertebral Artery Dissection

Stroke and paralysis are commonly understood medical conditions, but fewer people understand VAD and CAD. Cervical arteries is an all-encompassing term that refers to all the arteries in the neck, while the vertebral arteries refer to specific arteries which run up the back of the neck on either side.

Dissection of an artery takes place when the lining of the artery tears. When this happens, the flap of lining restricts blood flow. In addition, the artery immediately attempts to heal itself, and the blood begins to coagulate around the injury site. Once this occurs, there is a high risk of the wound releasing small blood clots into the bloodstream, where it travels to the brain quickly and can cause multiple strokes. The resulting trauma can result in temporary or permanent disability, depending on the area of the brain affected by the strokes.

Some studies estimate the incidence of vertebral artery dissection caused by chiropractic manipulation to be as high as one in every twenty-thousand treatments. Given the stated thirty million patients of the ACA, this means there are many victims out there. Since the strokes may not occur for up to two or three weeks, patients and doctors may fail to make the critical link to a previous chiropractic visit.

Compensation for Chiropractic Malpractice

Victims of chiropractic malpractice may be able to recover compensation for medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Cases involving the most serious injuries have resulted in settlements and/or awarded compensation ranging from hundreds of thousands of dollars upward to multi-million dollar awards.

If you or someone you know experienced a stroke, paralysis, vertebral artery dissection, or other serious injury after a chiropractic adjustment, our Indianapolis-based medical malpractice attorneys may be able to help you recover compensation for your injuries. Call Wagner Reese now for a FREE consultation: (888) 204-8440.


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