Saliva test may identify concussions with longer-term symptoms

If a concussion test that uses saliva to measure the severity of a concussion reaches the market, it might be easier to identify West Virginia children and adolescents who may have lingering symptoms. At present, there is not a test available that identifies those who will suffer from fatigue, nausea and headaches for one to four months although up to 25 percent of children with concussions do. However, researchers at Penn State have developed a saliva test that predicted with 90 percent accuracy which children would have these symptoms over a longer period of time.

When the brain suffers a concussion, as part of its healing process, it releases genetic material known as microRNAs. Researchers identified microRNAs that would help them estimate how long children might suffer symptoms and identified one that was associated with children's problems with problem solving and memory following a concussion. These microRNAs turned up in the saliva of children.

The test could significantly improve treatment of children with concussions, and parents and doctors would be able to identify which children should be kept home from school or from sporting activities until they have recovered. A blood test might be able to detect the microRNAs with even more accuracy since there would be more present in blood than saliva.

Other types of brain injuries may also have delayed symptoms. One of the issues with people seeking compensation following a head injury resulting from a car accident caused by a negligent driver is that they might not recognize the severity of the injury until after they have already agreed to a small settlement from the driver's insurer. In the case of a traumatic brain injury, an injury could be permanent, so obtaining adequate compensation from the liable party could be critical. The injured victim may want to talk to an attorney about how to proceed.

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