PLANO, TEXAS—15-year old Katy Schmidt is an avid athlete but scoliosis--a crooked spine--threatened to put her in a brace and on the sidelines.
"They told me to lay off core exercises and weights and stuff like that," Katy said.
But that's as bad as the news would get because of new genetic test called "Scoliscore."
Patients like Katy simply spit in a cup which is then mailed to a lab where scientists look at 50 DNA markers that are linked to the progressive form of scoliosis.
Results are scored between 1 and 200 with a score of 50 being considered low risk.
Dr. Richard Hostin is the medical director at the Baylor Scoliosis Center in Plano.
"I think the Scoliscore is one of the first big advances that we've had in the past 10 or 15 years in that it lets us identify really those curves that we really need to worry about more aggressively," Dr. Hostin said.
X-rays taken two years apart show that Katy's spine is virtually unchanged. Her Scoliscore was low which meant a non-aggressive treatment plan meaning fewer visits to the doctor and less exposure to radiation.
Without the genetic test Dr. Hostin said he might have prescribed a brace.
"We've also been a little bit more conservative about bracing some of the children with low Scoliscores because we've got a lot more reassurance that the probability of needing intervention is much lower than if we are strictly looking at an x-ray," Dr. Hostin said.
On the flip side--patients with high scoliscores can be treated more aggressively.
For Katy's mom Stephanie--the genetic spit test was spot on.
"I think there was a lot of stress because of the test--knowing that she probably wouldn't need surgery," Stephanie said.
And for Katy the volleyball player--it's game on.
"I thought I would have a brace maybe but now that I've got the green light I'm good," Katy said.
Katy is doing so well that her next doctors appointment is in three years--just before she goes off to college.
The Scoliscore test is covered by insurance and is considered to be a money-saver because it reduces the number of unnecessary treatments and patient trips to the doctors office.