When an individual enters an emergency room after an accident or another traumatic event, it would be advantageous to be able to indicate whether or not the patient may develop PTSD after the traumatic event. Detecting PTSD early on could not only save money and years of struggle, but it could also be lifesaving. Currently, the only commonly used tests for detecting PTSD are used after an individual exhibits the signs and symptoms of PTSD; often long after an individual has lived and struggled with PTSD. What if PTSD could be detected with a simple swipe of saliva? This early detection method is promising and may hit ERs in the near future.
The Saliva Test
A quick saliva collection, during the fast paced assessment in an emergency situation, could help doctors and determine whether or not a patient may develop PTSD after the event. The saliva (and also blood) test is used to measure neuroendocrine levels. If the individual’s levels are particularly high after a traumatic event, it indicates that he or she may develop PTSD in the near future and as a result, early detection can allow for early and appropriate treatment and possible prevention.
In the small study that tested 166 trauma survivors, the subjects had their saliva collected and tested in the ER, one week later, one month later, and four months later. The time increments are important because in order to be diagnosed or treated for PTSD, an individual must exhibit symptoms for at least one month. The individuals who continued to have high neuroendocrine levels with each saliva collection were more likely to develop PTSD. While the study is small and requires more testing overall, it is a promising breakthrough in treating and preventing severe symptoms that often accompany PTSD.
One potential issue with the saliva test is that an individual would need to have been injured enough, for example in an accident, to arrive in an emergency room. As we know, PTSD develops from various traumatic events, many that never required a trip to the emergency room. In some cases, medical attention would have been advantageous, but was ignored for any number of reasons. Additionally, PTSD doesn’t always have physical wounds or scars that were sustained in a physically damaging traumatic event.
Individuals who live with PTSD can attest that it’s a difficult and often frustrating condition to detect. When an individual enters a doctor’s office, he or she may not be able to articulate his or her feelings that may be related to PTSD. While there are many assessment tools available for detecting PTSD,even the most quick or simple assessments require an individual to communicate and answer a series of questions.
With PTSD affecting millions of people every day, an early detection method could not only reduce the number of people struggling with PTSD, but it could help individuals, who survived a traumatic event, live a better life overall.