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October 2022

Paraplegia. 1992 Nov; 30(11): 788-90.

Vertebral osteomyelitis following manipulation of spondylitic necks--a possible risk.

Lewis M, Grundy D.

Duke of Cornwall Spinal Treatment Centre, Odstock Hospital, Salisbury, Wilts, England.

Neurological complications of neck manipulation are well recognised but are usually due to acute vascular incidents. However, we describe two patients with cervical spondylosis, who developed staphylococcal osteomyelitis of the cervical spine with progressive tetraplegia, apparently following manipulation of the neck by a chiropractor. Although it is possible that the manipulation resulted in cervical spine trauma sufficient to cause local haemorrhage, the area becoming a nidus for infection, it is also conceivable that the patients underwent neck manipulation in an attempt to relieve pain due to an already existing osteomyelitis of the cervical spine, and the manipulation may have hastened the onset of spinal cord paralysis. Clearly, this could have occurred, as the average time between the onset of symptoms and diagnosis of vertebral osteomyelitis in most published series is about 2 months. Approximately 80% of cases of osteomyelitis occur in the 50-70 age group, a group in which cervical spondylosis is extremely common. It would seem that neck manipulation is particularly contraindicated in older patients with cervical spondylosis.

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