Septoplasty mutes the Scentinelle

septoplasty-may-stop-the-scentinelle

After undergoing a septoplasty, will the Scentinelle's super olfactory power get a boost or will she lose it?

Today I’m undergoing surgery on my nose, a septoplasty to be exact. I have a deviated septum from breaking my nose at least six times in as many years. It all started with a waterslide incident on the first Christmas that I spent with my husband when we were still dating. And now it may become the Scentinelle’s cryptonite.

Flash forward to last week in the pre-op exam when I asked this question of my doctor : How will fixing my septum and turbinates effect my sense of smell? He responded that it likely won’t change, but it could get better. That made me laugh out loud. I decided to see what the data show.

Damm and Eckel performed a small study of olfaction in 30 people undergoing septoplasty (Ann Otol Rhinol Laryngol 2003 ). Six weeks after the operation, they found that 80% of people had improved olfactory function in terms of odor identification; 70% had improved odor discrimination; and 54% had improved olfactory function in terms of odor thresholds. If my sense of smell improves, I might have to change careers.

But not so fast. Pfaar and Huttenbrink ran a similar study of 30 people undergoing septoplasty (Rhinology 2004). They followed their patients for 9 months and found that most experienced a significant decline in odor discrimination, but odor thresholds and odor identification remained about the same compared to before surgery. Maybe the Scentinelle’s days are numbered.

Bonfils and Malinvaud tried to make sense of all the small clinical trials of olfaction and nose surgery to see if there were any trends (B-ENT 2009). They found overall post-operative improvement compared with pre-operative symptoms. This seems to suggest that it’s worth fixing my septum in order to breathe better and prevent heart and lung problems down the road.

Still, these trials are small and only suggest what might happen. It’s hard to know which outcome I will experience. Stay tuned to find out if the Scentinelle keeps her superpower, gets it boosted or loses it altogether.

ABOUT THIS COLUMN: This weekly feature, the Science of Smell, appears on Fridays and endeavors to answer basic questions about this ancestral sense.

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Comments

  1. RecessionCone says:

    Best of luck with your surgery! And I hope that you’ll keep writing whatever happens. I really like your voice.

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  1. […] The Daily Smell › Science of Smell: SeptoplastyToday I'm undergoing surgery on my nose, a septoplasty to be exact. I have a deviated septum from breaking my nose at least six times in as many years. …thedailysmell.com/2010/11/30/science-of-smell-septoplasty/ […]