CLINICAL FEATURES: A 36-year-old man was seen at a chiropractic clinic 1 month after diving into the ocean and hitting his head on the ocean floor. He chipped a tooth but denied loss of consciousness. Initial medical examination in the emergency department did not include radiography, but an anti-inflammatory medication was prescribed. Radiographs taken at the chiropractic clinic 1 month later revealed an anterior compression fracture of the C7 vertebra, with migration of the fragment noted on flexion and extension views.
INTERVENTION AND OUTCOME: The patient was referred back to his medical doctor for further evaluation and management.He was instructed to wear a Philadelphia collar for 4 weeks. During this time period, he reported "shooting" pain and tingling from his neck into his arms. The patient reported resolution of his neck and arm symptoms at 2.5 months after injury. Follow-up radiographs at 6 months after injury revealed fusion of the fracture fragment with mild residual deformity. At that time, the patient began a course of chiropractic treatment.
CONCLUSION: After head trauma, it is essential to obtain a radiograph of the cervical spine to rule out fracture. Chiropractors should proceed with caution, regardless of any prior medical or ancillary evaluation, before commencing cervical spine manipulation after head and neck trauma.
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