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Baby's Neck Broken by Chiropractor

A four-month-old baby in Australia suffered a fractured vertebra in the neck after receiving chiropractic manipulation, The Age reports.

"Another few millimeters and there would have been a devastating

spinal cord injury and the baby would have either died or had severe

neurological impairment with quadriplegia,'' Dr. Chris Pappas, the pediatrician who treated the infant, told the Melbourne newspaper.



The incident, which occurred last year, resulted from a chiropractor's attempt to treat the infant's torticollis, a condition characterized by an abnormal head or neck position that is easily remedied with targeted stretching in 97% of cases. An investigation undertaken by the Chiropractic Board of Australia resulted in only a minor wrist slap for the chiropractor, who was permitted to continue practicing provided they complete additional training in the field of pediatric chiropractic.

Of course, that solution simply doubles down on the root of the problem. Chiropractors should not be treating infants at all.

"You shouldn't be doing anything with a young person... without significant levels of quality evidence. That's what we don't see here," Dr. Steve Hambleton, president of the Australian Medical Association, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).

Chiropractors across Australia are outraged over the report, decrying the pediatrician's account as patently false and calling for the associated news stories to be retracted. As Laurie Tassell, president of the Chiropractor's Association of Australia, said on ABC:

"We know there wasn't a link. What [the pediatrician] found was a child with a fracture of the upper neck. He was not there to know what the chiropractor did. He was not there to know what else happened with the child. So he's in no position to make that judgement."

Dr. Corrian Poelsma, the head of New Zealand's chiropractic association, has also made a statement in support of his Australian colleagues. "Chiropractic care of babies involves very safe, gentle adjustments; the light techniques used would usually be similar in pressure to that given to test a ripe tomato."

Hambleton provided a rebut to that statement.

"Well if their gentle treatment is so gentle that it's not affecting anything, then it's not doing anything either."

shutterstock_58086847.jpgHambleton is absolutely correct. Chiropractors claim that their manipulations can cure conditions ranging from infant colic, to ear infections, to bed-wetting. But research conducted in respected, science-based medical journals shows otherwise. (See: colic, asthma, ear infection.)  

Chiropractors themselves can't even substantiate their profession. In an unpublished review completed in 2011, one chiropractor determined that adjustment doesn't cure bed-wetting and only helps "manage" the ailment if chiropractic is paired with other evidence-based treatments. Another systematic review carried out by two chiropractors and published in a chiropractic journal determined that that evidence for pediatric manipulation is weak.

"The health claims made by chiropractors with respect to the application of

manipulation as a health care intervention for pediatric health conditions continue

to be supported by only low levels of scientific evidence," the reviewers found.

Apart from having a minor beneficial effect on low-back pain, scientific research has deemed chiropractic to be no more than a placebo. But it's a placebo that has resulted in nine documented seriously adverse health events in children, including paraplegia and a cranial hemorrhage. Is a placebo worth the risk where children and infants are concerned? Supposedly, that's for parents to decide, but the objective answer is "no."

*UPDATES* 10/17: New information

from the investigation of the incident has just come to light. A radiologist

who examined the four-month-old baby found that there was "no evidence

of fracture." The report also found that the infant had congenital

spondylolysis, which  may have resulted in the baby's loss of head

control.

Dr. Pappas, the pediatrician, disputes the findings: "Dr Pappas said he was certain the four-month-old baby girl had sustained

a fracture, which was confirmed by a radiologist, and he said further

investigations revealed the baby had a congenital condition, which the

chiropractor had overlooked. He said this condition put the infant at

higher risk of injury and complicated the baby's treatment after she was

taken to hospital with a broken neck."

(Chiropractor via Shutterstock)


H/T The Skeptic's Guide to the Universe
An

expert report undertaken by the Australian Health Practitioner

Regulation Agency, a federal body set up to replace state-based health

regulators, quoted a radiologist who examined the four-month-old baby

and found that there was "no evidence of fracture". - See more at:

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/nation/chiropractor-cleared-over-break/story-e6frg6nf-1226740575036#mm-breached

An

expert report undertaken by the Australian Health Practitioner

Regulation Agency, a federal body set up to replace state-based health

regulators, quoted a radiologist who examined the four-month-old baby

and found that there was "no evidence of fracture". - See more at:

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/nation/chiropractor-cleared-over-break/story-e6frg6nf-1226740575036#mm-breached