Saliva May Be the Key to Concussion Diagnosis

Could saliva be the key to concussion diagnosis and management? 

Scientists say yes, according to the study “Diagnosing Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Using Saliva RNA Compared to Cognitive and Balance Testing,” published in Clinical and Translational Medicine.

Researchers from Quadrant Biosciences, Penn State College of Medicine, SUNY Buffalo Jacobs School of Medicine, and SUNY Medical Upstate got together to study whether or not an objective biomarker in saliva could “increase diagnostic accuracy and improve clinical outcomes,” for patients with mild traumatic brain injuries (mTBI).

In this study of 538 individuals across 11 test sites, researchers compared the ability of salivary RNA to identify mTBI, relative to a commonly used symptom scale, balance test, and neurocognitive assessment. The saliva test identified participants who had suffered head injuries with similar accuracy to standard clinical tools!

What does this mean? 

Salivary microRNA levels represent a “noninvasive, biologic measure that can aid objective, accurate diagnosis of mTBI,” the paper concludes. 

Going forward, having an objective biomarker to rely on may help physicians predict the length of concussions as easily as possible, which would in turn ensure patients get the right care.

“With that knowledge, physicians could make more informed decisions about how long to hold a child out of sports, whether starting more aggressive medication regimens might be warranted, or whether involving a concussion specialist might be appropriate,” explained Steven Hicks, MD, Ph.D., FAAP, Associate Professor of Pediatrics, Penn State Hershey Medical Center and one of the co-authors in this study.

While the researchers are planning on conducting more studies, their results are encouraging that measuring microRNAs in saliva could one day provide an accurate, quick way to diagnose and manage concussions.