Whole stimulated salivary flow: correlation with the pathology of inflammation and damage in minor salivary gland biopsy specimens from patients with primary Sjögren's syndrome but not patients with sicca

Arthritis Rheum. 2011 Jul;63(7):2014-20. doi: 10.1002/art.30295.


Objective: To determine which measure of the salivary flow rate, stimulated or unstimulated, is most strongly associated with pathologic changes in minor salivary gland (MSG) biopsy specimens, and to explore the correlation of salivary flow with oral surface damage, disease duration, and symptom severity in patients with primary Sjögren's syndrome (SS).

Methods: In all patients (n = 32), a biopsy of the MSG was performed, and stimulated salivary flow was assessed. Beginning in 2002, unstimulated salivary flow was also assessed. Scores for the severity of symptoms, according to the decayed/missing/filled teeth (DMF) index, were recorded. Associations between measures of salivary flow and covariates characterizing pathology were examined.

Results: A definite association between stimulated salivary flow and the MSG focus score, the grade of MSG fibrosis, the duration of dry mouth symptoms, and the DMF score was observed. In contrast, unstimulated salivary flow was not associated with fibrosis, atrophy, the DMF score, or the duration of dry mouth symptoms. In patients with primary SS, the DMF score was associated with pathologic changes in the MSG. Among patients with sicca, 57.9% had an abnormal unstimulated salivary flow rate (versus 82.4% of patients with primary SS), and 15.2% had an abnormal stimulated salivary flow rate (versus 61.8% of patients with primary SS). Among patients with sicca, neither stimulated salivary flow nor unstimulated salivary flow was associated with the degree of fibrosis or atrophy or with the DMF score.

Conclusion: Compared with unstimulated salivary flow, stimulated salivary flow appeared to be a better measure of inflammation (according to the focus score) and fibrosis. In patients with sicca, the unstimulated salivary flow rate appeared to be abnormal more commonly compared with the stimulated salivary flow rate. In the future, stimulated salivary flow may serve as a noninvasive surrogate biomarker of inflammation and fibrosis as well as a measure of response to treatment in patients with primary SS.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / pathology*
  • Inflammation / physiopathology
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Salivary Glands / pathology*
  • Salivary Glands / physiopathology
  • Salivation / physiology*
  • Sjogren's Syndrome / complications
  • Sjogren's Syndrome / pathology*
  • Sjogren's Syndrome / physiopathology
  • Xerostomia / complications
  • Xerostomia / pathology
  • Xerostomia / physiopathology