After visiting 17 different doctors’ offices in search of answers for a condition that was causing her 4-year-old son severe chronic pain, his desperate mother turned to the solution that all medical specialists advise against: the Internet. Traditional medicine had not offered clear answers, and little Alex, who was only 4 years old at the time, continued to suffer. As detailed Today, the woman turned to ChatGPT, OpenAI’s artificial intelligence bot. Courtney – the woman has not revealed her last name – offered detailed information about her son’s symptoms, and the AI achieved what science had not achieved until then: get the diagnosis right. The boy had a rare disease called tethered cord syndrome.
The medical odyssey began during the 2020 lockdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic, when Alex began to feel fatigue and body aches. His parents took him to many specialists, from orthodontists to neurologists, in a desperate attempt to find an explanation for his symptoms. Each doctor issued isolated diagnoses, but none seemed to capture the full picture.
“We saw so many doctors… At some point we ended up in the emergency room. But I have continued to insist,” explained the mother of the affected child in statements to Today. After seeing 17 doctors, Courtney decided to turn to artificial intelligence to find answers.
Tethered cord syndrome
Through ChatGPT, she painstakingly shared her son’s symptoms and MRI results. “I went line by line through everything that was on their MRIs and shared the information with ChatGPT,” she said. “I introduced details like his inability to sit criss-cross. “For me that was a big trigger that something structural might be wrong,” she added. The response was surprising: the artificial intelligence (AI) tool returned a diagnosis different from all those that expert doctors had ruled for years: tethered cord syndrome.
Alex’s mother then joined a Facebook group of parents of children with the same syndrome, finding stories that seemed to reflect her son’s experience. Ultimately, she made an appointment with a neurosurgeon who confirmed the diagnosis of ChatGPT and was able to initiate appropriate treatment for the child.
Tethered cord syndrome is a rare condition in which the spinal cord becomes attached to the surrounding tissues of the spine, making it difficult to stretch properly as the child grows. Children with this disease have symptoms such as back and leg pain, numbness in the feet, and difficulty walking.
Just because ChatGPT got it right this time doesn’t mean it will always be like this
While Alex’s story highlights the valuable contribution of AI in the search for medical diagnoses, especially in complex cases, it is important to remember that this tool must be considered as a complement to the experience and judgment of health professionals. Just because it was right this time doesn’t mean it will always be right. Quite the opposite: resorting to these new tools – remember, still in full development and lack of regulation – to ask medical questions is not a good idea at all. Although it could be a good help for doctors in the medium or long term.
Dr. Jesse M. Ehrenfeld, president of the American Medical Association, emphasized, in the aforementioned headline, the importance of using AI responsibly and ethically in the field of medicine. Although these technologies can be useful, they must be properly regulated to ensure patient safety.
Furthermore, it should be noted that he sometimes fills in information gaps with false data and that cases have been detected in which he has made errors when basic questions about diseases have been asked.
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