Getting A Jump On Scoliosis
New DNA test can determine the severity of spinal disorder.
A new tool is helping doctors treat patients with scoliosis.
When Amanda Henthorn was diagnosed with scoliosis in 7th grade, her twin sister, Stephanie, braced herself.
"I knew it was coming. If one of us was diagnosed, then the other one, it was bound to happen. Like, she got diagnosed first and basically, I was, like, 'Crap. That is going to be me next'," Stephanie said.
Their doctor, Rick Sasso of the Indiana Spine Group, says x-rays reveal scoliosis, a curvature of the spine measured in degrees.
"During the growth spurt between the ages of 9, 13, 14 years old, that's when the chance or potential of a young girl to progress to this curve is very high," Sasso said.
But at the time, unable to predict how the Henthorn twins would progress until their growth plate closed, they wore a brace for five years.
"You kind of feel like an outcast, because you can't do the same things. We would wear 18 hours, so we would have about six hours off," Amanda said.
"Those hours were dedicated to when we would do competitive cheerleading, so that is the only time we could keep our braces off," Stephanie said.
The ultimate goal is to keep the curve under 40 degrees and avoid surgery.
"It was a constant fear going. We couldn't tell, like, when you are wearing the brace, you don't know how much your degree has changed in your back. You don't know. So it was, every appointment, we were, 'Okay, oh, shoot, has our back changed? Has our spine curved even more?'," Amanda said. "It was like a constant, constant fear that this is the day that he will tell us that we have to get surgery."
Their curve stopped at 34 degrees.
The twins graduated and went on to cheer for Indiana University.
Now, they applaud a breakthrough for patients like them, which will help end the angst.
It's called Scolioscore, analyzing a patient's saliva for 53 genetic markers, then assigning patients a score from one to 200.
"A low score means that there is a very small chance, 99 percent chance that this curve will not progress during her adolescence," Sasso said. "A very high score is a high predictive value, high chance, very high chance that this curve is going to progress, no matter what we do, even put it in a brace."
"If we had known that 'Oh, our curve is going to eventually stop,' then I think the appointments would have been way less stressful. Way less stressful," the twins said.
And maybe their score would have revealed they wouldn't have to wear those hot and cumbersome braces at all, which they now keep in their basement as a reminder of the diagnosis and drama they get through together.