BACKGROUND: Pediatric manual therapy is controversial within the medical community particularly with respect to adverse events. Pediatric manual therapy (Ped MT) is commonly used by a number of professions such as chiropractors, osteopaths and naturopaths for a variety of treatments in children. Ped MT interventions range from advice, light touch, massage, through to mobilisation and high velocity spinal manipulation. However, current evidence related to adverse events associated with Ped MT is not well understood.
OBJECTIVE: To update the clinical research literature from the 2007 report by Vohra, Johnston, Cramer and Humphreys on possible adverse events in children treated by spinal manipulation.
METHODS: A review of the clinical research literature from June 2004 until January 2010 as reported in MEDLINE, PubMed and PubMed Central for adverse events specifically related to the treatment of pediatric cases by manual therapy.
RESULTS: Only three new clinical studies, one systematic review with meta-analysis and one evidence report were identified. Two clinical studies reported on chiropractic care and one on osteopathic spinal manipulation in children. The systematic review investigated all studies of adverse events and manual therapy and was not specific for pediatric patients. The evidence review focused on effectiveness of spinal manipulation in a variety of musculoskeletal conditions. No serious or catastrophic adverse events were reported in the clinical studies or systematic review. However for adults, it has been estimated that between 0.003% and 0.13% of manual therapy treatments may result in a serious adverse event. Although mild to moderate adverse events are common in adults, an accurate estimate from high quality pediatric studies is currently not available.
CONCLUSIONS: There is currently insufficient research evidence related to adverse events and manual therapy. However, clinical studies and systematic reviews from adult patients undergoing manual therapy, particularly spinal manipulation report that mild to moderate adverse events are common and self limiting. However serious adverse events are rare and much less than for medication commonly prescribed for these problems. More high quality research specifically addressing adverse events and pediatric manual therapy is needed.