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Saliva test can help diagnose children with brain injuries

A majority of the research associated with traumatic brain injuries relates to adults. However, significantly more attention should go toward children because they make up a sizable portion of all brain injury sufferers in the United States. Every year, over three million children receive concussion diagnoses, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics

Parents of children who have sustained head trauma should ask their doctors whether a saliva test would be prudent. This test is relatively new, and it could help doctors better determine how long a child will experience the symptoms of the concussion. 

What is it?

Researchers from the Penn State College of Medicine found that genetic materials indicative of a concussion were more present in children who experienced brain trauma. After a brain injury, the damaged brain cells release a type of genetic material known as microRNAs. This material appears in the saliva and blood of children with concussions. 

The study in question examined 50 children between the ages of 7 and 18 who had experienced a mild brain injury in the recent past. Using the saliva test, researchers were able to correctly predict that the symptoms of a concussion would last in the child for at least a month with 90 percent accuracy. Another test, known as a SCAT-3 survey, was only able to be accurate less than 70 percent of the time. 

Future use

This field of study is still relatively new, but there is a lot of promise. Researchers presented these materials at the Pediatric Academic Societies Meeting in 2017. In addition to the high level of accuracy, this test could become more widespread due to its non-invasive nature. 

Children who experience concussions, either from sports or other physical activities, are more likely to have concentration problems at school and all other areas of life. Parents and teachers alike will be better capable of addressing these problems if they know how long the concussion symptoms could last in a particular child. 

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