Topical therapy in anosmia: relevance of steroid-responsiveness

Laryngoscope. 2008 Sep;118(9):1681-6. doi: 10.1097/MLG.0b013e31817c1368.


Objectives/hypothesis: The use of steroids either systemically or topically is known as a common therapy in patients with anosmia. Nevertheless, investigations giving proof for the benefit of a topical therapy are very rare, and no prognostic factors are known. In our study, we for the first time evaluated the additional effect of a topical therapy not only with steroids but also with antibiotics after conventional pretreatment with oral steroids and propose the steroid-responsiveness of an anosmia as a prognostic factor.

Study design: Retrospective design.

Methods: We analyzed the data of 299 patients with olfactory dysfunction. Eighty-nine underwent initial pretreatment with systemic steroids and presented data over a sufficient follow-up time. In a second step all these patients were given a topical treatment in a head down forward position, namely either budesonid alone or in combination with neomycin. Primary outcome parameter was the threshold, discrimination and identification (TDI) score.

Results: Initial therapy with oral steroids changed the TDI from 15.5 to 18.7 in the means (P < .001). In general, leaving away systemic steroids while applying local therapy did not led to a reduction of the TDI (P < .001). Dividing up the patients into those suffering from a steroid-responsive anosmia (SRA) and those without benefit from initial systemic steroids (non-SRA), the topical treatment led to a significant difference between the two groups with benefit toward the non-SRA group (P < .001). Regarding only the nonchronic rhinosinusitis anosmics, these findings became even more apparent. Furthermore, in non-SRA patients we found even better results with steroids in combination with neomycin as a topical therapy. In this group, the combined topical therapy elevated the TDI for +2.1 points whereas topical steroids alone raised it only for +1.0 point.

Conclusions: The steroid-responsiveness of anosmia seems to be a relevant prognostic indicator for a significant benefit of a topical therapy in general. Within all patients, the effect of an initial systemic therapy could be maintained by the adjacent topical treatment whereas in non-SRA patients a topical therapy has a significant greater impact. Furthermore, antibiotics even seem to have an additional effect in this group. Different reasons, first of all an overwhelmed steroid resistance by additional antiinflammatory effects of antibiotics, e.g., the inhibition of apoptosis might play a role and are discussed.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Intranasal
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Glucocorticoids / administration & dosage*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neomycin / administration & dosage*
  • Olfaction Disorders / drug therapy*
  • Olfaction Disorders / physiopathology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Smell / physiology
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Glucocorticoids
  • Neomycin