Painless test predicts curvature of the spine


by Health Team

Posted on November 7, 2012 at 6:55 PM

Little Alyssa Smith loves to be active. That includes playing in her swimming pool.

"I like doing dives and jumps," Smith said.

But curvature of her spine could threaten her ability to enjoy an active childhood.

"She was fine last year. And then she had a physical this year and she was at 20 degrees, 21 degrees," said Alyssa's mother Andrea Smith.

Alyssa was developing scoliosis. And it could get worse. It did for her mother Andrea.

"When I hit my growth spurt at 13, the curve excelled. It went just over 70 degrees," said Andrea Smith.

It was a dramatic curvature. Smith needed surgery to correct it.

"My lung, they said, would have collapsed. I wouldn't have lived past my 20s," she said.

Now a saliva test is being used to predict how severe Alyssa's curve will be.

"We may be able to use novel treatments, or start earlier bracing to prevent her progression to surgery," said Dr. Suken A. Shah, of Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington Delaware.

It's called Scoliscore. Doctor Shah said it's more than 98%  accurate. The test uses DNA from saliva to determine scoliosis risk. There's an advantage over current detection methods.

"It eliminates all the inefficiency in medical care that we currently have, over treatment, over x-ray, bringing down the cost of medicine to those patients that actually need it," said Dr. Shah.

No matter what she faces next, Alyssa said she'll get through it.

"Just keep strong and don't worry about it," she said.

And she'll keep doing what kids do, including lots of active play.

The current test works in Caucasian children. Research is underway to develop one that will work in African American and Asian children.