A young woman by the name of Katie May was all over the news media this morning due to the findings of her sudden death being released. First, I want to say how sorry I am for those grieving the loss of their daughter, mother, sister and friend. Her death is truly a tragedy and my heart bleeds for them. I can not imagine the pain they are experiencing.
Here are the facts as I know them to date…TMZ released an article this morning stating the L.A. County Coroner reported Katie May died due to a chiropractic adjustment that tore an artery and caused a stroke. The death certificate states she died when a blunt force injury tore her left vertebral artery and cut off blood flow to her brain. It later states she suffered a fall during a photo shoot earlier in the week.
I recently read an article that stated she suffered from a CAD(carotid artery dissection) not the VAD(vertebral artery dissection) that was previously reported. In most of the research I have seen that discussed chiropractic and strokes the VAD is what has been of major concern. Many say due to the anatomical structure of the neck and the path the vertebral artery follows rotatory chiropractic adjustments can cause tears in the artery creating an environment for coagulation of blood, therefore blocking blood flow to the brain resulting in a stroke. Can this happen? In all honesty, yes, but the incidence is rare. In fact, Cureus (1), a medical science journal, did a systematic review of published literature and found the relationship between chiropractic manipulation and CAD is very low. Literature also states that strokes in the 30-45 age range are more likely related to a CAD caused by blunt force trauma to the neck which Katie May also received in the fall.
In my personal opinion we can’t say whether the adjustment killed her because there isn’t enough evidence to support it. I don’t know how she presented to the hospital or to the chiropractors office to say whether either facility missed something. All I can say is we just don’t know. I do know that the potential is there because of her recent trauma and complaints she presented. I also know that chiropractors have been trained for the signs to watch for in a potential stroke patient and the testing to perform to rule in or out. In my office I always perform a through neurological and orthopedic examination as well as take a complete history in order to determine if risk factors are present. Based on those results and my knowledge I will not adjust and refer out if red flags are present.
My take home to anyone reading this is to talk with your chiropractor about any concerns that may you have regarding your risk factors.
Again, this is just one person’s opinion on this particular tragedy. If you would like more information regarding chiropractic and the potential for strokes please either leave your question or email firstname.lastname@example.org. I will gladly answer questions to the best of my ability.
I have attached a list of links to articles further explaining a VAD/CAD as well as articles discussing chiropractic adjustments and strokes.
1: 2016 Church et al. Cureus 8(2):e498. DOI 10.7759/cureus.498