Objective: To describe the practice characteristics and pediatric care of chiropractors.
Study design: Cross-sectional, descriptive survey.
Setting: Chiropractic practices in the Boston, Mass, metropolitan area.
Participants: One hundred fifty licensed chiropractors.
Main outcome measures: Demographics, practice characteristics, and fee structure. Practitioners were also asked about their approach to childhood immunizations and a clinical scenario. Data were analyzed using simple descriptive statistics.
Results: Ninety (60%) chiropractors responded. All were white and 65% were men. Respondents had on average 122 patient visits weekly, of which 13 (11%) were from children and adolescents. Typical visit frequency ranged from 1 to 3 times weekly. Average visit fees were $82 and $38 (initial and follow-up) and 49% of the fees were covered by insurance. Seventy percent of the respondents recommended herbs and dietary supplements. For pediatric care, 30% reported actively recommending childhood immunizations; presented with a hypothetical 2-week-old neonate with a fever, 17% would treat the patient themselves rather than immediately refer the patient to a doctor of medicine, doctor of osteopathy, or an emergency facility.
Conclusions: Children and adolescents constitute a substantial number of patients in chiropractics. An estimated 420000 pediatric chiropractic visits were made in the Boston metropolitan area in 1998, costing approximately $14 million. Pediatric chiropractic care is often inconsistent with recommended medical guidelines. National studies are needed to assess the safety, efficacy, and cost of chiropractic care for children.