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Steroid-Dependent Anosmia


  • Michael H. Stevens MD

    Corresponding author
    1. University of Utah School of Medicine, Salt Lake City, Utah
    • Michael H. Stevens, MD, Clinical Professor, University of Utah School of Medicine, 3496 Millhollow Circle, Salt Lake City, UT 84106, U.S.A.
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  • Presented at the Western Section of the Triologic Society, San Francisco, California, January 8, 2000.


Objective To document the response to steroids in patients remaining anosmic following endoscopic nasal and sinus polypectomy.

Study Design A prospective study of 24 patients with nasal and sinus polyps who were anosmic prior to endoscopic nasal and sinus surgery. Those who remained anosmic after surgery were treated with steroids. Most patients had asthma, allergic rhinitis, or both. A few had aspirin sensitivity.

Methods All 24 patients had testing of their sense of smell before and after surgery. Those who remained anosmic postoperatively were first treated with topical nasal and then oral steroids and then tested again.

Results Twelve of the 24 remained anosmic after surgery and were found to be unresponsive to nasal steroids, but oral steroids were found to restore the sense of smell to normal in most patients. Few patients continued to take the medication for long periods of time mainly because of a fear of side effects. Recent studies have suggested the role of systemic steroids in olfactory secretion, which may explain the mechanism for this response.

Conclusion Patients who remain anosmic after the removal of nasal and sinus polyps can be treated with oral steroids resulting in improvement of their sense of smell. Further research is needed on a molecular level to determine the reason for this and also why oral but not nasal steroids are helpful in these patients.