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New test can detect scoliosis in kids

October 6, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
Experts say three out of every 100 people have some form of scoliosis or spine curvature. No one knows the cause, but doctors say it's hereditary. Now, a new test can detect the disease in kids.Softball means the world to 11-year-old Danielle Paradis.

"The day I started playing it, I fell in love with the sport," said Paradis.

That world fell apart when she was diagnosed with scoliosis last year.

"I'll get, if I get like tagged in the back, or something, I might start crying because it really hurts," said Paradis.

Her spine has a 20-degree curvature. Experts say anything over 10 degrees needs attention. A normal spine has no curve.

Doctors can put young patients in a brace, which slows curve progression in 75 percent of cases. While they may prevent surgery, braces can be bulky and embarrassing.

"If your curve is not going to change, then we can kind of let you go free, but there is no way we have right now to really accurately tell us that," said Mark Lee, M.D., from Connecticut Children's Medical Center.

Dr. Lee says a scoliosis test may solve the problem. A saliva sample is checked for 53 DNA markers. Patients then get a score between 1 and 200.

"A low score tells me that, the curve that you have, when you come to see me, will not change at all, and the high score tells me that the curve probably will change, and you might need surgery down the line," said Dr. Lee.

Danielle now wears a back brace at night but still suits up for every game.

"I love the rush. I just love everybody on my team," said Paradis.

This test can be performed on 9 to 13 year olds who've already been diagnosed with scoliosis. In addition, many insurance companies cover the cost of the test.


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