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Chiropractic Malpractice Attorney in Saint Louis
We Can Help You Understand and Enact Your Legal Options
Contrary to popular misconceptions, chiropractors are doctors. Anyone who wants to join the profession must pursue at least 4 years of graduate education and pass a licensing exam before they can practice. However, this does not mean the treatment they offer is always a good choice. Some experts have questioned whether the field as a whole is safe for patients. The spine can be easily damaged if any mistake is made.
Just like any other doctor, a chiropractor can be held legally accountable to a patient for medical malpractice. If, in the course of treatment, a chiropractor causes the patient to suffer injury or fails to take actions to safeguard the patient's health, they may be held liable for the injury, and the patient may be able to recover monetary damages.
Were you seriously injured by a chiropractor, or diagnosed with a condition you think was related to chiropractic care? Call our attorneys at (800) 391-4318 for a free consultation.
Types of Chiropractic Malpractice
There are two main types of chiropractic malpractice commonly seen in cases today. The first involves a chiropractor's failure to diagnose conditions that require timely medical attention. For example, if you were to take your chiropractor a complaint of severe leg pain, they might diagnose you with spinal misalignment.
The chiropractor might attempt to manipulate your spine in an effort to relieve the pain and believe the issue taken care of. In reality, a blocked artery in your leg could be the real cause of the problem—and, when left untreated, lead to an amputation. Had the chiropractor made an accurate diagnosis of the condition, you might have been able to avoid this outcome and make a full recovery.
The second type of chiropractic malpractice involves damage due to the manipulation of your body in efforts to relieve any pain. Chiropractic adjustments are often quite forceful, and if the doctor makes even minor errors in the process, a patient may be injured. Side effects can be serious and even deadly.
Complications of Chiropractic Care
An Unknown but Potentially Deadly Injury
One of the biggest dangers of chiropractic care is damage to the vertebral arteries (present in the neck) or cerebral arteries (which deliver blood to the brain). If an artery is stretched too far during treatment, its interior wall may tear. This condition, known as arterial dissection, can cause clotting or other blockages of blood flow. Research suggests certain patients should be screened out of chiropractic treatment due to increased risk—but this is not an issue most chiropractors address.
Though the force used by chiropractors against the spine can cause this sort of injury, they typically remain unaware of negative outcomes. This makes it difficult for scientists to even estimate how often patients suffer arterial dissections. However, a meta-analysis of 901 such injuries caused by chiropractic work found that 78% of the affected patients suffered a stroke due to the damage and nearly 3% died. Though less common, arterial dissections may also cause heart attack.
Patients who suffer a stroke due to arterial dissection might experience side effects including:
- Slurred speech
- Loss of strength and/or motor control in a limb
- Loss of sensation in a limb
- Neck pain, specifically on the same side as the injury
- Difficulty walking
- Difficulty swallowing
By accessing immediate care, patients may be able to minimize the brain damage; however, they may have lasting symptoms that require rehabilitation and daily aid.
Acquired Brain Injuries
Unlike traumatic brain injuries, which are caused by an impact, acquired brain injuries (ABIs) are caused by internal factors such as neurotoxins or lack of oxygen. Along with a stroke caused by arterial dissections, chiropractic patients may suffer an ABI due to bleeding in the brain.
An epidural hematoma, which is a buildup of blood between the skull and the membrane covering the brain, can cause death if untreated. Symptoms include:
- Brief loss of consciousness
- Increased blood pressure
- Difficulty breathing
- Brain damage
The hematoma may begin to take up space in the skull and can lead to brain damage and death if not treated quickly. The treatment often includes brain surgery, which has variable outcomes though it will likely remove the danger from the hematoma.
An intracranial aneurysm (brain aneurysm) similarly involves a buildup of blood in the brain, this time in an artery. It may cause minor symptoms as it grows but will most likely not be noticed until it bursts. Blood can directly damage brain cells and, as with the epidural hematoma, compress the brain in the skull. The symptoms of a burst aneurysm include:
- Severe headache
- Stiff neck
- Pain behind eyes
- Decreased motor function
Back and Spine Injuries
- Herniated disks (or exacerbation of current herniations)
- Spinal cord contusion
- Long thoracic nerve palsy
- Cauda equina syndrome (compression/pinching of nerves in the lower spine)
Injuries to the spinal cord can at times result in a loss of motor control and/or sensation. They may require extensive treatment and/or rehabilitation.
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