The number of vertebral artery dissections and resulting strokes related to negligent chiropractic neck adjustments is alarming. This type of injury occurs more than one might realize and is just now starting to appear in media coverage. To be sure, there are many fine chiropractors who can properly adjust the neck, however, inexperienced, careless, or improperly trained chiropractors can and do cause serious injuries when they improperly adjust the neck of patients.
When this occurs, the injury may have been caused by malpractice and should be investigated by an experienced medical malpractice attorney to determine if chiropractic malpractice occurred (in the form of improper technique while adjusting the neck which puts too much pressure on the carotid artery and causes it to tear) and whether the injury (i.e, stroke) was caused by the malpractice. In litigation, defendants invariably assert that here is an association between the manipulation and vertebral artery dissection/stroke, but no causation and argue that the dissection was there prior to manipulation, they will try to say that there is evidence of tortious vessels on a CT scan or other radiographic test that could be indicative of a pre-existing connective tissue disorder. They will then cite (chiropractic sponsored) literature that tries to correlate studies on animal vertebral arteries to humans. The literature relied upon by the defense is simply not authoritative peer-reviewed literature that should be relied upon.
In other words, defense “chiropractic experts” (i.e., chiropractors hired by the insurance defense firms to testify on behalf of the defendant chiropractors who caused the injury that is the basis of the lawsuit) are relying on recent “scientific” studies to argue that there is absolutely no causal link between chiropractic manipulation and stroke. If you’ve tried one of these cases recently, you have probably heard the defense counsel and defense attorney claim, “while there may be an association, there is no causation.” As with other studies that are conducted primarily by trade associations and industries to defend litigation but are conducted under the guise of “research” it’s not easy to determine exactly how these studies are funded, but at least one was funded by the primary insurer of chiropractors nationwide – National Chiropractic Malpractice Insurance Company (“NCMIC”). Since this is a chiropractic insurer organization, one cannot seriously argue with the fact that they are biased in defense of the chiropractors, at any cost. After all, if there is a judgement obtained at trial against their insured chiropractor, they NCMIC must pay the judgment. NCMIC obviously has a tremendous interest in making sure these studies come to this “no causation” conclusion. When trying a case, the bias needs to be clear to the jury so that they do not mistakenly rely on this type of study as “independent,” which it clearly is not. NCMIC’s website boasts that it provides millions of dollars of funding for chiropractic research. It is not too big a leap to understand that the researchers are not independent, but rather are beholden to the sponsor of the studies. We have seen this in other industries such as the auto industry, tobacco, asbestos, big pharma…the list goes on.