Free Program Helps To Discover Unnoticed Orthopedic Diseases

New York 1—NEW YORK—June 9, 2008

Serious bone, muscle, and joint diseases ranging from cerebral palsy to flat feet can often go unnoticed in some children. NY1's Kafi Drexel filed the following report on a free program that is hoping to catch these conditions ahead of time.

Ten-year-old Jillian Hernandez had always noticed a clicking sound and some pain in her left knee.

"I notice that sometimes when I'm walking to school it gets louder," said Hernandez.

Her mom thought it was just a byproduct of an early childhood accident, but it turns out that Hernandez was born with a discoid meniscus, or an abnormally shaped disc of cartilage that is meant to support and cushion the knee.

Doctors from Hospital for Special Surgery discovered Hernandez's problem through its Pediatric Outreach Program (POP), a free service that has been in operation for 20 years. POP provides bone, muscle, and joint screenings at schools and community centers in under-served communities throughout the city.

"So many children that were coming to see us here at the hospital had problems that were so advanced and either we couldn't help them enough or we couldn't help them at all," said Dr. Leon Root of POP. "If the children do not come to us, we have to go to the children."

If any child were to need a follow-up or continued care, they would then be referred to the hospital. Insurance would be arranged if he or she didn't have any.

Dr. Root says the program should not be seen as a service of last resort, but one that can be preventative as well.

"A lot of children are getting their primary care in clinics and are large groups so pediatricians are examining their heart and lungs and are not really paying attention to the orthopedic problems," said Root.

While they don't find abnormalities in most of the children they screen, Dr. Root says about 10 percent of the children actually do have problems, which, if unaddressed, can become very serious.

"We see children with bow legs that need treatment and we see children with scoliosis which has not been discovered," said Dr. Root. "We find children with mild neuro-muscular problems and they are limping and nobody is ever able to find out why they are limping."

As for Hernandez, her knee problem is not as serious now, but could require surgery down the road, something both she and her mom are glad doctors are keeping an eye on.

To view the full report, go to NY1.com.

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