For the past three years, since a routine middle school screening detected a slight spinal curvature, my son has had semi-annual appointments with a pediatric orthopedist. Through repeated physical exams and spinal X-rays, my son's curvature has remained mild. But potential progression of his adolescent idiopathic scoliosis (AIS) is riskiest as he goes through puberty and experiences growth spurts.
But now there's a new prognostic test, ScoliScore, developed by Axial Biotech Inc. Based on DNA analysis, the test can help predict whether or not your child’s mild scoliosis is at risk of becoming severe.
At my son's last appointment, the one where he had grown two inches in six months and surpassed me in height, the doctor mentioned a new test that would evaluate a handful of genetic markers that had been found to predict the future severity of AIS. The results would give us more knowledge about what we could expect in the next few years: Would the curve get worse? Would he need a brace or, even scarier, surgery to correct the change? Peace of mind counts for a lot when it comes to my kids, so after talking about it with my son, we agreed for him to be tested.
The test was really simple requiring only that a test tube be filled with saliva. Fun and games for a teenage boy. And three weeks after submitting the test, the doctor called to tell me that on a scale of 1-200, with 200 indicating a severe case, my son’s saliva scored a 25. Because the chance of his scoliosis progressing is so low, we don't have to return to the doctor for a year. No out of pocket co-pays and no twice a year x-rays and the radiation that comes with them.
There are some caveats for the test: The child has to be between the ages of 9 and 13, the curve must be mild, ranging from 10 to 25 degrees, and the test is indicated for Caucasians because that group was the only one with a large enough study sample size. (Other racial groups will be included in upcoming studies.) And it's not cheap. According to the ScoliScore website, the test costs $2,950. Wow. But the company representative I spoke with, before my son's test was processed, assured me that what my insurance company does not cover will be not be my responsibility.
My daughter, who is almost 12, has not shown any signs of scoliosis yet, though this type of scoliosis is more prevalent in girls. In addition, scoliosis has a genetic component to it. I was diagnosed with a mild case when I was an adolescent as was my ex-husband’s sister. So, we’ll keep an eye on her and, if necessary, she'll take the test. The unknown is scary but knowing that at least some of the future can be predicted is comforting.
Would you have your child take the test?
Image via SimonDavison/Flickr