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Ear, Nose, and Throat Disorders

Loss of taste and smell

07/26/2007

Question:

following oral surgury done with general anesthesia I had changes in the tastes of some of my favorite foods. I have had operations since on both knees and a colonoscopy since and with each operation I have lost more taste and smell ability until I can now smell nothing and can only taste shrimp slightly and cocktail a little. No meats,fruits or vegetables, ect: This has occured over the last five years.Is there any hope of this being reversed?

Answer:

First, it is important to make a distinction between taste and smell.  Taste is the ability to distinguish salt, sour, sweet, and bitter, and probably remains intact.  It is very unusual to lose one's sense of taste, although minor disruption can occur following oral surgery.  On the other hand, our overall flavor perception is based upon our taste, but even more upon our smell.  When smell is lost, the flavor of food is greatly impacted, and most people interpret this as a loss of taste.

Smell loss has been reported after general anesthesia, but the precise etiology remains unclear.  Prevailing theories suggest it may be the result of a small embolus.  There is a theoretical  chance of recovery, but the likelihood is unknown. 

I would suggest a thorough evaluation by an ENT physician to rule out other possible etiologies, and to make certain there is no therapy available.  Testing of your sense of smell can also be performed.     

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Response by:

Allen M Seiden, MD Allen M Seiden, MD
Professor of Otolaryngology, Director of Division of Rhinology and Sinus Disorders, Director of University Taste and Smell Center, Director of University Sinus and Allergy
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati