A risk-benefit assessment strategy to exclude cervical artery dissection in spinal manual-therapy: a comprehensive review
Structural and chiropractic
Ann Med.2019 Mar;51(2):118-127.
A Chaibi, M B Russell
Cervical artery dissection refers to a tear in the internal carotid or the vertebral artery that results in an intramural haematoma and/or an aneurysmal dilatation. Although cervical artery dissection is thought to occur spontaneously, physical trauma to the neck, especially hyperextension and rotation, has been reported as a trigger. Headache and/or neck pain is the most common initial symptom of cervical artery dissection. Other symptoms include Horner's syndrome and lower cranial nerve palsy. Both headache and/or neck pain are common symptoms and leading causes of disability, while cervical artery dissection is rare. Patients often consult their general practitioner for headache and/or neck pain, and because manual-therapy interventions can alleviate headache and/or neck pain, many patients seek manual therapists, such as chiropractors and physiotherapists. Cervical mobilization and manipulation are two interventions that manual therapists use. Both interventions have been suspected of being able to trigger cervical artery dissection as an adverse event. The aim of this review is to provide an updated step-by-step risk-benefit assessment strategy regarding manual therapy and to provide tools for clinicians to exclude cervical artery dissection. Key messages Cervical mobilization and/or manipulation have been suspected to be able to trigger cervical artery dissection (CAD). However, these assumptions are based on case studies which are unable to established direct causality. The concern relates to the chicken and the egg discussion, i.e. whether the CAD symptoms lead the patient to seek cervical manual-therapy or whether the cervical manual-therapy provoked CAD along with the non-CAD presenting complaint. Thus, instead of proving a nearly impossible causality hypothesis, this study provide clinicians with an updated step-by-step risk-benefit assessment strategy tool to (a) facilitate clinicians understanding of CAD, (b) appraise the risk and applicability of cervical manual-therapy, and (c) provide clinicians with adequate tools to better detect and exclude CAD in clinical settings.