What is the role of sensory testing in the diagnosis of taste and smell disorders?

Updated: Jan 08, 2021
  • Author: Eric H Holbrook, MD; Chief Editor: Arlen D Meyers, MD, MBA  more...
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Quantitative measurement of smell and taste dysfunction is most important when chemosensory dysfunction is the primary symptom. The major goal of sensory testing is to assess the degree of chemosensory dysfunction.

Clinical testing can be time consuming and difficult to perform precisely, but some commercially available tests attempt to simplify and standardize these efforts. Often, testing of both nostrils simultaneously is performed to save time; in other sensory systems, however, it is standard to perform unilateral testing to identify pathology, and indeed, olfactory testing of each nostril may be more effective in detecting an olfactory disorder. [52]

Tests of olfactory function that evaluate threshold of odor detection and odor identification have been developed that can provide a reliable measure of olfactory ability. These tests include the butanol threshold test, the University of Pennsylvania Smell Identification Test (UPSIT) (Sensonics, Inc. www.sensonics.com), and the Sniffin' Sticks test (Burghart Messtechnik GmbH www.burghart-mt.de). Measurements of brain electric potentials, ie, olfactory-evoked responses, have been used in research centers along with odor identification tests to evaluate aberrant olfaction with relation to neurologic disease.

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