Snapchat queen and Playboy model Katie May died this February at the age of 34. Now, TMZ reports that the L.A. County Coroner's office has found that her cause of death was an injury received during "neck manipulation by chiropractor."
It appears that May fell while on a photo shoot, which left her with a neck injury. The pain was so bad that, after being released by the hospital earlier in the week, she went to a chiropractor. A few days later, she suffered a fatal stroke.
But how could a visit to a chiropractor lead to her death? The coroner's letter explains that her neck adjustment tore a major artery in her neck, eventually causing a stroke.
This is known by doctors as cervical artery dissection (CD). It starts with some kind of trauma that causes a small tear in the layers of artery walls in the neck. Ac† cording to a 2014 statement from the American Heart Association, "It can result in ischemic stroke if a blood clot forms after a trivial or major trauma in the neck and later causes blockage of a blood vessel in the brain. Cervical artery dissection is an important cause of stroke in young and middle-aged adults."
Although the chances of something like this happening are extremely rare, some research has linked chiropractic care to the incidence of CD, though it's not clear that it causes it. Other studies suggest that the risks for this kind of stroke are similar among those who see chiropractors and those who stick with more traditional physicians. The link here isn't totally explained.
For its part, the American Chiropractic Association (ACA) maintains on its website that "there is a lack of evidence to prove that cervical adjustments cause stroke."
"Our sympathy goes out to the family of Katie May," the ACA added in a statement to Refinery29. "With respect to the safety of neck manipulation, it’s important to understand there are risks and benefits to all treatments; however, the chance of experiencing a serious adverse event following neck manipulation is extremely low."
Even without a proven causal link between neck manipulation and strokes, the American Heart Association still wants patients to be informed of the potential risk before seeking chiropractic care.
If you experience symptoms suggestive of a stroke, such as dizziness, vision problems, slurred speech, or muscle weakness — whether you've recently seen a chiropractor or not — get to the hospital, stat.