ChatGPT helped a mother determine what was causing her son’s debilitating pain that had been ongoing for three years.
Courtney, who chose not to reveal her last name, said her son Alex started experiencing difficult symptoms when he was four years old during the Covid-19 lockdown. The family’s nanny “started telling me, ‘I have to give him Motrin every day, or he has these gigantic meltdowns,’” Courtney said. The painkillers helped to subdue her child’s pain, but other worrisome symptoms started popping up, according to The Independent.
Alex began chewing on objects, which caused his family to wonder if he had a cavity. A dentist examined him and didn’t find anything wrong; Alex was then referred to an orthodontist who found his palate was too small. This can cause trouble sleeping, and Alex’s family thought this might be part of why he hadn’t been feeling well.
The orthodontist treated Alex by placing an expander in his palate, which temporarily put his family at ease. “Everything was better for a little bit,” Courtney said.
But Alex continued to suffer: Courtney soon noticed her son had stopped growing, and that he wasn’t walking the way he should have been. He was also experiencing severe headaches and exhaustion.
Courtney’s family saw a shocking number of experts to try to figure out what was wrong with Alex, including a pediatrician, a neurologist, an ear nose and throat (ENT) specialist, and more. All told, Courtney said they consulted 17 doctors, but they were left frustrated and without answers. None of the recommended treatments solved the problem.
After three years of doctors’ appointments, Courtney turned to ChatGPT for answers. The chatbot, created by a company called OpenAI and released in 2022, was made to dialogue with people in a conversational way.
“I went line by line of everything that was in his MRI notes and plugged it into ChatGPT,” Courtney said.
Trying ChatGPT led Courtney to discover tethered cord syndrome, which is a complication of spina bifida. She made an appointment with a new neurosurgeon who confirmed that Alex did have a tethered spinal cord as a result of spina bifida occulta, a birth defect that causes issues with spinal cord development. This is the mildest form of spina bifida, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which states the condition is often not discovered until later in a child’s life.
Researchers are already looking into the effects of ChatGPT on medicine. A paper published in May in Frontiers in Artificial Intelligence stated that the technology does have both benefits and drawbacks for the field: “The potential applications of ChatGPT in the medical field range from identifying potential research topics to assisting professionals in clinical and laboratory diagnosis,” the paper said. However, it continued, “despite its potential applications, the use of ChatGPT and other AI tools in medical writing also poses ethical and legal concerns”.