Prognosis of Olfactory Dysfunction according to Etiology and Timing of Treatment

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We evaluated the severity of olfactory impairment according to risk factors, compared responses with risk factors and treatment timing, and investigated prognosis according to treatments.

Study design

Case series with chart review.


Tertiary referral center.

Subjects and Methods

We retrospectively reviewed medical records of patients complaining of loss of their sense of smell between January 2006 and May 2016. In total, 491 patients were included. We evaluated olfactory function using the Connecticut Chemosensory Clinical Research Center test (threshold test) and Cross-cultural Smell Identification Test.


Post–upper respiratory infection patients showed better results than those with other risk factors (59.6% recovered). Patients with head trauma (12.5% recovered) and congenital olfactory dysfunction (0% recovered) showed poorer results. Earlier treatment showed better olfactory recovery outcomes for post–upper respiratory infection (P = .001), head trauma (P = .022), and nasal/sinus surgery (P = .009). Xerostomia (P = .73) and idiopathy (P = .365) showed no significant difference in terms of treatment timing. The threshold test better reflected subjective recovery than the identification test. The systemic + topical steroid group and the systemic steroid treatment group both showed better smell recovery outcomes than the group with topical treatment alone (both, P < .001). However, there was no significant difference between the systemic treatment group and the systemic + topical treatment group (P = .978).


Our findings suggest that the duration of smell loss is important for better olfactory outcomes with most etiologies. Also, the effects of systemic steroids were better than those of topical steroids, regardless of combined treatment.

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