Conductive olfactory losses in chronic rhinosinusitis? A computational fluid dynamics study of 29 patients


  • Current affiliation for N.E.R.: AFB International, St. Charles, MO 63304.

  • Funding sources for the study: NIH NIDCD 5R03DC008187 (to KZ), NIH NIDCD P50 DC00006760 (to PD, NER and BJC).

  • Potential conflict of interest: None provided.



Besides sensorineural factors, conductive impediments likely contribute to olfactory losses in chronic rhinosinusitis (CRS) patients, yet no conclusive evidence exists. We aimed to examine possible conductive factors using computational fluid dynamics (CFD) models.


A total of 29 CRS patients were assessed via odorant detection thresholds (ODTs), rhinomanometry (nasal resistance [NR]), acoustic rhinometry (minimum-cross-sectional area [MCA]) and computed tomography (CT) staging. CFD simulations of nasal airflow and odorant absorption to olfactory region were carried out based on individual CTs. Biopsies of olfactory epithelium (OE) were collected, cryosectioned, stained, and scored for erosion.


Significant correlations to ODTs were found for 3 variables: odor absorption in the olfactory region (r = −0.60, p < 0.01), MCA (r = −0.40, p < 0.05), and CT staging (r = 0.42, p < 0.05). However, significant findings were limited to ODTs of the highly soluble l-carvone. Multiple regression analysis revealed that these variables combined, with the addition of NR, can account for 65% of the total variance in ODTs. CT staging correlated significantly with OE erosion (r = 0.77, p < 0.01) and can replace the latter in the regression with comparable outcomes. Partial correlations suggest the contributions of both conductive and sensorineural variables are more prominent if adjusted for the effects of the other. Olfactory loss and inflammatory factors have strong bilateral involvement, whereas conductive factors are independent between sides. As validation, CFD-simulated NRs significantly correlated with rhinomanometrically assessed NRs (r = 0.60, p < 0.01).


Both conductive and sensorineural mechanisms can contribute to olfactory losses in CRS. CFD modeling provides critical guidance in understanding the role of conductive impediments in olfactory dysfunction in CRS.