Simple Test Can Predict Scoliosis Problems

Test can help predict progression of a curve if left untreated

A genetic test for scoliosis is easing the minds of those diagnosed with it and helping doctors treat the condition more effectively.

ScoliScore received Food and Drug Administration approval about 18 months ago.

"The genetic test lets us see in two weeks, essentially, how much do we need to worry?" said Dr. Richard Hostin, an orthopedic surgeon at Baylor Plano and the Southwest Scoliosis Institute.  

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.

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