Spit for Your Spine

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Tuesday, September 14, 2010 - 8:01am

New saliva test can help determine if young scoliosis patients will need surgery.

Scoliosis patients have spines that are curved.

It's problem that mare or may not require corrective surgery, and until now deciding that was more or less a guessing game.

A new saliva test can help doctors determine if a patient's spine curvature is going to get worse, and that allows them to intervene as early as possible.

Gabi Weiner went to see Dr. Harry Shufflebarger at Miami Children's Hospital.

He confirmed it was scoliosis, which affects one percent of the population.

Within that group, 10 to 15 percent have serious curvature of the spine requiring correction.

It's more common in girls and it usually starts around puberty.

The new saliva test using genetic markers provided a scoliosis score of Gabi's risk of progression.

"It uses a range of numbers that has some relationship to the risk of curve progression. So the information it will give you is either you have a low risk or a high risk," explains Dr. Shufflebarger.

Gabi's score indicated she was at high risk.

"If your risk is high say 80 to 90 percent of the time your curve is going progress to over 40 degrees it gives us the opportunity to intervene earlier," says Dr. Shufflebarger.

To try to keep the curvature under control before surgery patients wear a hard plastic brace 20 hours a day.

Rods were surgically implanted into Gabi's back to straighten her curved spine. She’s now glad she had the surgery.

"I really didn't want my spine to get more crooked over the years, it would just be horrible and I know a lot of people who have back pain now because they never took care of it," she says.

Early detection and intervention helped make for an easy and speedy recovery.
 

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