Introduction: The safety of spinal manipulative therapy (SMT) in children is controversial. We were mandated by the College of Chiropractors of British Columbia to review the evidence on this issue.
Objectives: We conducted a rapid review of the safety of SMT in children (< 10 years). We aimed to: 1) describe adverse events; 2) report the incidence of adverse events; and 3) determine whether SMT increases the risk of adverse events compared to other interventions.
Evidence review: We searched MEDLINE, CINAHL, and Index to Chiropractic Literature from January 1, 1990 to August 1, 2019. We used rapid review methodology recommended by the World Health Organization. Eligible studies (case reports/series, cohort studies and randomized controlled trials) were critically appraised. Studies of high and acceptable methodological quality were included. The lead author extracted data. Data extraction was independently validated by a second reviewer. We conducted a qualitative synthesis of the evidence.
Findings: Most adverse events are mild (e.g., increased crying, soreness). One case report describes a severe adverse event (rib fracture in a 21-day-old) and another an indirect harm in a 4-month-old. The incidence of mild adverse events ranges from 0.3% (95% CI: 0.06, 1.82) to 22.22% (95% CI: 6.32, 54.74). Whether SMT increases the risk of adverse events in children is unknown.
Conclusion: The risk of moderate and severe adverse events is unknown in children treated with SMT. It is unclear whether SMT increases the risk of adverse events in children < 10 years.
Author keywords: Adverse event — Child — Pediatric — Safety — Spinal manipulation — Spinal mobilization
Author affiliations: All authors: Faculty of Health Sciences, Centre for Disability Prevention and Rehabilitation, Ontario Tech University and Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College, Oshawa and Toronto, Ontario, Canada; CC, SM, AT-V: Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
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