Background: This article evaluates the prevalence of hyperventilation syndrome (HVS) in patients who continue to complain of ongoing nasal congestion, despite an apparently adequate surgical result and appropriate medical management.
Methods: Prospective case series of 14 patients from June 2002 to October 2003 was performed. Patients, who presented complaining of nasal congestion after previous nasal surgery and who appeared to have an adequate nasal airway with no evidence of nasal valve collapse, were evaluated for HVS. When appropriate, nasal steroids and oral antihistamines also had been tested without success. Three patients had end-tidal P(CO2) levels measured and five patients underwent breathing reeducation.
Results: All patients had an elevated respiratory rate (>18 breaths/minute) with an upper thoracic breathing pattern. Twelve of the 14 patients complaining of nasal obstruction had an elevated Nijmegen score indicative of HVS. An average number of 2.5 procedures had been performed on each patient. End-tidal P(CO2) levels were < or = 35 mmHg in the three patients who had expired P(CO2) levels measured. Breathing retraining was successful in correcting the nasal congestion in two of five patients.
Conclusion: HVS should be included in the differential diagnosis of patients presenting with nasal congestion, particularly after failed nasal surgery. One possible explanation is increased nasal resistance secondary to low arterial P(CO2) levels. Another possible explanation is reduced alae nasae muscle activity secondary to the reduced activity of serotonin-containing raphe neurons. Additional surgery may not necessarily be the answer in HVS patients complaining of nasal congestion.