Predictors of olfactory dysfunction in rhinosinusitis using the brief smell identification test

Jeremiah A. Alt, Jess C. Mace, Maria C.F. Buniel, Zachary M. Soler, Timothy L. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations


Objectives/Hypothesis Associations between olfactory function to quality-of-life (QOL) and disease severity in patients with rhinosinusitis is poorly understood. We sought to evaluate and compare olfactory function between subgroups of patients with rhinosinusitis using the Brief Smell Identification Test (B-SIT). Study Design Cross-sectional evaluation of a multicenter cohort. Methods Patients with recurrent acute sinusitis and chronic rhinosinusitis with and without nasal polyposis were prospectively enrolled from three academic tertiary care sites. Each subject completed the B-SIT, in addition to measures of disease-specific QOL. Patient demographics, comorbidities, and clinical measures of disease severity were compared between patients with normal (BSIT ≥9) and abnormal (BSIT <9) olfaction scores. Regression modeling was used to identify potential risk factors associated with olfactory impairment. Results Patients with rhinosinusitis (n=445) were found to suffer olfactory dysfunction as measured by the B-SIT (28.3%). Subgroups of rhinosinusitis differed in the degree of olfactory dysfunction reported. Worse disease severity, measured by computed tomography and nasal endoscopy, correlated to worse olfaction. Olfactory scores did not consistently correlate with the Rhinosinusitis Disability Index or Sinonasal Outcome Test scores. Regression models demonstrated nasal polyposis was the strongest predictor of olfactory dysfunction. Recalcitrant disease and aspirin intolerance were strongly predictive of worse olfactory function. Conclusions Olfactory dysfunction is a complex, multifactorial process found to be differentially expressed within subgroups of rhinosinusitis. Olfaction was associated with disease severity as measured by imaging and endoscopy, with only weak associations to disease-specific QOL measures. Level of Evidence 2b. Laryngoscope, 124:E259-E266, 2014

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E259-E266
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Olfaction disorders
  • inflammation
  • quality of life
  • sinusitis
  • smell

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology


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