After 17 doctors couldn't establish a root cause for a young patient, ChatGPT stepped in and diagnosed the patient correctly.
During the COVID-19 lockdown in 2020, Alex, then four years old, began experiencing pain, recalls his mother Courtney, who asked not to use her last name to protect her family's privacy, Today.com reports.
Every day, Alex was given Motrin, a pain relief medicine, to prevent meltdowns. However, the pain was only increasing, and Alex began chewing things. His parents suspected that his molars were coming in and causing pain or that Alex had a cavity, but the dentist "ruled out everything."
Instead, the doctor recommended seeing an orthodontist specializing in airway obstruction. The orthodontist found that Alex's palate was too small for his mouth and teeth, making it difficult for him to breathe at night. Placing an expander in Alex's palate seemed to help for a while.
But then Courtney noticed that Alex had stopped growing taller. A pediatrician they visited suggested that the pandemic negatively impacted Alex's development.
A checkup in early 2021 showed that Alex grew a little. However, he seemed to have some imbalances between his left and right sides and was referred to physical therapy. At the same time, Alex started experiencing severe headaches, which, according to a neurologist, were migraines. He was also struggling with exhaustion.
Courtney said that the specialists would only address their individual areas of expertise. And after visiting 17 doctors within three years, the diagnosis was still unclear.
And then Courtney sought help from an unlikely source, ChatGPT. She entered Alex's medical information, including MRI notes and symptoms such as inability to sit cross-legged on the floor.
When ChatGPT suggested tethered cord syndrome, she joined a Facebook group for families of children with the condition, whose stories sounded very familiar.
When a new neurosurgeon looked at Alex's MRI images, she pointed at occulta spina bifida, a birth defect defined as a small separation or gap in one or more of the spine's bones. That explained tethered cord syndrome.
What is tethered cord syndrome?
Tethered spinal cord syndrome is a neurologic disorder caused by tissue attachments that limit the movement of the spinal cord within the spinal column, according to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons. These attachments cause an abnormal stretching of the spinal cord.
Symptoms of tethered cord syndrome in children may include:
- Back pain, worsened by activity and relieved with rest
- Lesion, fatty tumor, or deep dimple on the lower back
- Skin discoloration or hairy patch on the lower back
- Leg pain, numbness, or tingling
- Changes in leg strength, leg deformities, deterioration in gait
- Progressive or repeated muscle contractions
- Spine tenderness or curvature of the spine
- Bowel and bladder problems
ChatGPT helps patients already
The hype surrounding ChatGPT soon after its introduction raised hopes that it could also be applied in medicine.
In a recent study, researchers tested ChatGPT's ability to answer 150 multiple-choice questions that were created to mimic the Canadian Royal College and American Board of Radiology exam. ChatGPT correctly answered 69% of the questions, falling short of the passing mark of 70%
Another team of researchers asked ChatGPT 350 of the 376 United States Medical Licensing Exams (USMLE) questions available to the public. The chatbot scored between 52.4% and 70% across three tests, while the score needed to pass is about 60%.
Healthnews asked a health expert to fact-check ChatGPT's answers to questions like whether intermittent fasting is healthy or if wine is good for your health. Although the chatbot could answer health questions appropriately, it missed the most recent research findings, plagiarized other sources, and tended to be too vague to offer real value to the reader.
Alex's story shows that sometimes ChatGPT helps find possible explanations for health issues. However, only doctors can make final diagnoses and prescribe appropriate treatments.
- Today.com. A boy saw 17 doctors over 3 years for chronic pain. ChatGPT found the diagnosis.
- American Association of Neurological Surgeons. Tethered Spinal Cord Syndrome.