In the medical field, providing the best treatment starts with the right diagnosis. This seems obvious, but it’s something that we have to keep in mind every day as research shows that 1 in 20 adults is misdiagnosed every year.

That was the situation facing our patient Ashley. When her and her parents came to us a few days before her sixth birthday, we were the fifth doctor they had seen. They had a tough go of it – Ashley suffered from congenital scoliosis and had received a number of diagnoses. MRIs and X-rays showed a 30-degree curve in her spine, as well as a vertebra that was undeveloped on one side (known as hemivertebra). This despite the fact there was no family history of either scoliosis or kyphosis.

This combination of spinal issues suggested that surgical intervention was needed, but before conducting surgery, the Paley Institute’s Dr. Feldman wanted to make sure the diagnosis was correct. Unfortunately, Ashley’s previous doctors had missed that her problem was in her L4 vertebra, not the hemivertebra as they had suggested. This was important as it affected the surgical treatment. Thankfully, Dr. Feldman made the right call and performed the correct surgery: fusion of Ashley’s L5-sacrum while also monitoring her hemivertebra for any movement.

For Ashley, this has made a world of difference. Now a teenager, she engages in a range of athletic pursuits, competing in swimming, soccer and ballet. She’s even performed in the Nutcracker and is actively studying ballet dancing en pointe. Additionally, she’s an avid hiker: she’s hiked both the Grand Canyon and Yosemite National Park.