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  • Writer's pictureSarah Ruivivar

ChatGPT: The AI That Diagnosed a Boy's Chronic Pain

Updated: Oct 30, 2023


When Courtney's son Alex, then 4, began experiencing unexplained pain, it marked the start of a three-year medical mystery.


Despite visiting 17 different doctors, no one could pinpoint the cause of Alex's increasing discomfort and accompanying symptoms. That's when Courtney turned to an unlikely source for help - ChatGPT, an artificial intelligence platform.


Courtney spent a night inputting all the information she had about Alex's symptoms and medical history into ChatGPT. To her surprise, the AI suggested a diagnosis of tethered cord syndrome, a condition where the tissue in the spinal cord forms attachments that limit its movement, causing it to stretch abnormally. This suggestion was a lightbulb moment for Courtney.


Alex's symptoms included pain, grinding his teeth, and dragging his leg. Despite multiple visits to various specialists, each only addressed their individual areas of expertise, leaving the broader problem unsolved. Courtney felt like she was hitting a brick wall.


ChatGPT, however, provided a fresh perspective. By analysing the information Courtney provided, it suggested a diagnosis that made sense. This led Courtney to a Facebook group for families of children with tethered cord syndrome, where she found stories that mirrored Alex's.


Armed with this new information, Courtney visited a new neurosurgeon, who confirmed the diagnosis. Alex had occulta spina bifida and a tethered spine. After years of searching, they finally had an answer.


ChatGPT, developed by OpenAI, operates by predicting the next word in a sentence based on existing text data on the internet. It's like a "super high-powered medical search engine," according to Andrew Beam, Ph.D., assistant professor of epidemiology at Harvard. While it's not set to replace human clinicians, it can be a valuable tool for patients with complicated conditions who are struggling to get a diagnosis.


For Courtney and Alex, ChatGPT was a game-changer. After the diagnosis, Alex underwent surgery to fix his tethered cord syndrome and is currently recovering. Courtney shared their story to help others facing similar struggles, highlighting the importance of being your child's advocate and exploring all available resources - even AI.



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