Variability in Retronasal Odor Identification Among Patients With Chronic Rhinosinusitis

Kimia G. Ganjaei, Zachary M. Soler, Kristina A. Storck, Nicholas R. Rowan, Florence A. Othieno, Rodney J. Schlosser

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Background: Retronasal olfaction is important in flavor detection and enjoyment. The ability to identify specific individual retronasal odors may play a role in quality of life for patients with chronic rhinosinusitis (CRS). Objective: To identify patterns and improve understanding of retronasal identification of individual odors in CRS patients. Methods: Patients diagnosed with CRS underwent retronasal and orthonasal (Sniffin’ Sticks) olfactory testing and taste testing (taste strips). Retronasal identification was tested with presentation of flavored powders on the posterior tongue. Retronasal identification for individual odors was compared with results of orthonasal and taste testing. Results: Seventy participants were evaluated. Retronasal identification correlated with orthonasal identification and discrimination for most individual odors. Among all patients, cinnamon and apple were identified better retronasally and banana better orthonasally (P <.05). Anosmics identified retronasal orange, cinnamon, mushroom, coffee, smoked ham, peach, ginger, grape, and cheese more than would be expected by chance for a forced-choice paradigm with 3 distractor items (P <.05), and this was independent of objective taste function for most odors. Conclusion: Retronasal and orthonasal identification of most odors correlate in CRS patients; however, patients with anosmia can still identify certain retronasal odors more often than expected. These odors do not appear to stimulate gustatory pathways and may involve trigeminal stimulation. Understanding preserved retronasal neural stimuli may allow providers to improve eating-related quality of life in these patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)424-431
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Journal of Rhinology and Allergy
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Sniffin’ Sticks
  • anosmia
  • chronic rhinosinusitis
  • olfaction
  • orthonasal
  • retronasal
  • taste

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Otorhinolaryngology


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