A possible role for saliva as a diagnostic fluid in patients with chronic pain

H. P. Fischer, W. Eich, I. J. Russell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


Objectives: The focus of this review was on proteins and peptides found in saliva. Of greatest interest were those neuropeptides relevant to nociception and to the pathogenesis of chronic pain syndromes. An additional goal was to develop a standardized protocol to collect saliva for laboratory assessment. Methods: Data were obtained through discussion with experts at the medical schools in San Antonio and Heidelberg and a Medline literature search involving all relevant studies from 1966 to 1997. The literature search was based on the following key terms: saliva, serotonin, neuropeptide, substance P (SP), calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP), and nerve growth factor (NGF). Results: The mean concentration of SP in the saliva of healthy normal controls ranged from 9.6 to 220 pg/mL. Generally, the concentration of SP was approximately three times higher in saliva than in plasma. In a number of painful conditions, particularly tension headache, substantial elevations of salivary SP were found. Mean values for salivary CGRP in healthy controls were approximately 22 pmol/L and were significantly elevated in patients with migraine attacks or cluster headache. There were no data to indicate prior quantitative determination of NGF in human saliva. Conclusions: After sampling and processing techniques have been standardized, measurement of neuropeptides in human saliva could provide a valuable tool for the study of patients with chronic painful disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, and even fibromyalgia syndrome.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)348-359
Number of pages12
JournalSeminars in Arthritis and Rheumatism
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1998
Externally publishedYes


  • Calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP)
  • Chronic pain
  • Fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS)
  • Nerve growth factor (NGF)
  • Saliva
  • Serotonin (5HT)
  • Substance P (SP)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rheumatology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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