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Brain Injuries from Chiropractic Manipulation

There is a known phenomenon called vertebral artery dissection which can occur during chiropractic cervical neck manipulation. The adjustment occurs when the chiropractor makes a certain maneuver with your head and neck. Though some patients may get relief from the adjustment, there can be a different outcome. The procedure involves an area where an artery, the vertebral artery, which transports oxygen rich blood to your brain, is located.  The adjustment has been known to result in a dissection of the vertebral artery.  The dissection may cause the vertebral artery wall to tear causing a flap where blood can accumulate, slowing blood flow to the brain and some times causing a clot to form at the tear of the wall.  Later, the clot can break away in to smaller clots which then flow to areas of the brain.  Such clots can result in a stroke or strokes.  Strokes can result in brain damage. If there are multiple clots going to different areas of the brain, the damage can cause multiple deficits and symptoms.  Again, proper and prompt attention to symptoms following a chiropractic cervical neck adjustment may be necessary to treat a vertebral artery dissection.  There have been cases where the vertebral artery dissection results in significant permanent brain damage leading to life long disability requiring extensive rehabilitation, treatment, accommodations and costs.

Attorney Kolpan has handled several cases of vertebral artery dissection caused by cervical neck manipulation where clients have sustained serious brain injury as a result. Cases involve not only negligently performing the cervical manipulation adjustment but the failure of the chiropractor to properly evaluate the patient's symptoms and make an appropriate referral before or instead of attempting the maneuver.  These cases also involve the doctor's failure to inform the patient of the significant risks of cervical manipulation.

Though rare, vertebral artery dissection can cause significant brain damage. Our office represented a woman who was never informed by her chiropractor about the risks of performing cervical neck manipulation.  When the event occurred, the chiropractor called his mentor because the doctor did not know what had happened.  During litigation, Attorney Kolpan discovered that the defendant had learned about the risk of cervical neck manipulation in chiropractic school because it was contained in the doctor's own school notes.

The same chiropractor failed to refer her to a neurologist to determine the cause of her headaches. Expert opinion testimony would have been that the proper treatment for the patient's symptoms was not cervical neck manipulation but referral to a headache specialist for evaluation and probable treatment with medications.The case settled for an amount within the doctor's policy limits.

Unfortunately, many chiropractor patients are unaware of the possible vertebral artery dissection from cervical neck manipulation.  Chiropractor treatment, when appropriately delivered, can be beneficial for some medical problems. Attorney Kolpan has brought these cases to bring attention to this medical issue.

We invite you read more about brain injury litigation here on our website. For further information, you may contact our office online or call us at 617.426.2558.