Posttraumatic smell loss: relationship of psychophysical tests and volumes of the olfactory bulbs and tracts and the temporal lobes

Acad Radiol. 1999 May;6(5):264-72. doi: 10.1016/s1076-6332(99)80449-8.


Rationale and objectives: The purpose of this study was to define the primary sites of injury in patients with posttraumatic anosmia and hyposmia with magnetic resonance (MR) imaging and to determine if these sites correlated with the results of psychophysical olfactory tests.

Materials and methods: Thirty-six patients with subjective loss in olfaction after head trauma underwent volumetric MR studies of the olfactory bulbs and tracts and temporal lobes. Pearson correlations were computed between olfactory bulb and tract and temporal lobe volumes and the patients' scores on tests of odor identification (including the University of Pennsylvania Smell Identification Test [UPSIT]), detection, and memory. Analysis of variance was used to compare volumes of the control subjects and the posttraumatic patients.

Results: The olfactory bulbs and tracts (32 [89%] of 36 patients), the subfrontal lobes (22 [61%] of 36 patients), and the temporal lobes (11 [31%] of 36 patients) showed the highest incidence of posttraumatic encephalomalacia. Left olfactory bulb and tract volumes showed a statistically significant correlation with left and total UPSIT scores. A statistically significant difference (P < .001) was found in the right and left olfactory bulb and tract volumes between anosmic and hyposmic patients and between posttraumatic patients and control subjects.

Conclusion: Olfactory bulb and tract damage may correlate with deficits in odor identification. Olfactory bulb and tract and frontal lobe encephalomalacia coexist in many patients.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Craniocerebral Trauma / complications*
  • Craniocerebral Trauma / pathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Olfaction Disorders / etiology*
  • Olfactory Bulb / injuries*
  • Olfactory Bulb / pathology
  • Temporal Lobe / injuries*
  • Temporal Lobe / pathology