• Electronic nose;
  • cerebrospinal fluid;
  • bacteria;
  • sinus cultures


Objective/Hypothesis The thesis explores the applicability of electronic nose technology in medical decision-making. Specifically, the studies undertaken in the thesis were designed to test the ability of the electronic nose to assist in diagnostic questions encountered in the field of rhinology.

Study Design Three separate studies were undertaken. All involved analysis of specimens by the electronic nose, obtained either in vitro or in vivo: known matched sets of cerebrospinal fluid and serum, bacterial samples from known plated specimens, and culture swabs taken from patients suspected of having rhinosinusitis who also had a matched standard bacterial culture taken from the same site. The goal of analysis was to determine whether the electronic nose was able to identify or categorize specimens or groups of specimens.

Methods Each specimen was tested using the organic semiconductor-based Cyranose 320 electronic nose. Data from the 32-element sensor array were subjected to principal-component analysis to depict differences in odorant patterns. Distinction of specimens was identified by calculation of Mahalanobis distance.

Results The electronic nose was able to distinguish serum from cerebrospinal fluid in pure isolates as well as in isolates collected on small cottonoid pledgets at amounts of 0.2 mL or greater. It was also able to distinguish between control swabs and bacterial samples as well as among bacterial samples collected in vitro. Preliminary work suggests that it may be able to distinguish between presence and absence of bacterial infection in specimens collected on nasal swabs.

Conclusions The electronic nose is able to distinguish reliably between cerebrospinal fluid and serum sampled in small amounts, may be able to identify presence and type of bacterial pathogen in vitro, and is able to identify presence or absence of bacteria on nasal swabs. Because this information is available immediately, the electronic nose may be a powerful new technology for diagnostic use, not only for rhinologic purposes but in many other aspects of medicine as well.