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Whedon, MJ., Petersen, LC., Li, Z., Schoelkopf, JW., Haldeman, S., Mackenzie, AT., Lurie, DJ. (2022) 'Association between cervical artery dissection and spinal manipulative therapy -a medicare claims analysis', BMC Geriatr.2022 Nov 29;22(1):917.

BMC Geriatr.2022 Nov 29;22(1):917.

Association between cervical artery dissection and spinal manipulative therapy -a medicare claims analysis

J M Whedon, C L Petersen, Z Li, W J Schoelkopf, S Haldeman, T A MacKenzie, J D Lurie


Background: Cervical artery dissection and subsequent ischemic stroke is the most serious safety concern associated with cervical spinal manipulation. Methods: We evaluated the association between cervical spinal manipulation and cervical artery dissection among older Medicare beneficiaries in the United States. We employed case-control and case-crossover designs in the analysis of claims data for individuals aged 65+, continuously enrolled in Medicare Part A (covering hospitalizations) and Part B (covering outpatient encounters) for at least two consecutive years during 2007-2015. The primary exposure was cervical spinal manipulation; the secondary exposure was a clinical encounter for evaluation and management for neck pain or headache. We created a 3-level categorical variable, (1) any cervical spinal manipulation, 2) evaluation and management but no cervical spinal manipulation and (3) neither cervical spinal manipulation nor evaluation and management. The primary outcomes were occurrence of cervical artery dissection, either (1) vertebral artery dissection or (2) carotid artery dissection. The cases had a new primary diagnosis on at least one inpatient hospital claim or primary/secondary diagnosis for outpatient claims on at least two separate days. Cases were compared to 3 different control groups: (1) matched population controls having at least one claim in the same year as the case; (2) ischemic stroke controls without cervical artery dissection; and (3) case-crossover analysis comparing cases to themselves in the time period 6-7 months prior to their cervical artery dissection. We made each comparison across three different time frames: up to (1) 7 days; (2) 14 days; and (3) 30 days prior to index event. Results: The odds of cervical spinal manipulation versus evaluation and management did not significantly differ between vertebral artery dissection cases and any of the control groups at any of the timepoints (ORs 0.84 to 1.88; p > 0.05). Results for carotid artery dissection cases were similar. Conclusion: Among Medicare beneficiaries aged 65 and older who received cervical spinal manipulation, the risk of cervical artery dissection is no greater than that among control groups.

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