A genetic test for scoliosis is easing the minds of those diagnosed with it and helping doctors treat the condition more effectively.
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Using a simple saliva sample, the test looks for genetic markers that help predict how bad the curve in a patient's back is likely to become if left untreated.
But the ScoliScore test is not designed as a first line method of screening. It does not predict if someone will get scoliosis, so doctors say screening at school by a pediatrician's office is still the best first step.
A ScoliScore test brought quick relief for 11-year-old Sara Ross and her parents after weeks of worries.
"It was such a huge weight off our shoulders when the results came back," said her father, Larry Ross.
She learned she had scoliosis after a routine screening at her school. But a ScoliScore test showed that there was a very low probability that her mild curve will get worse.
Sara could put aside worries about wearing a back brace in middle school or high school.
In the past, she would have been subjected to X-rays every three to six months to monitor the progress of her curve.
But the ScoliScore test can help young people avoid unnecessary radiation.
It can also benefit patients with a high ScoliScore number. Doctors can offer those patients more aggressive treatment using back braces in hopes of avoiding surgery in the future.
Overall, the tests have shown that most patients -- about three out of four -- fall into the low-risk category.
"So for most of those children, I'm able to tell mom and them right away, 'Take a deep breath. She's got a curve that's not likely to be a bad actor, and probably not going to need surgery," Hostin said.