Olfactory function and nasal nitric oxide

Curr Opin Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2009 Feb;17(1):18-22. doi: 10.1097/moo.0b013e32831fb580.


Purpose of review: To highlight two often forgotten nasal functions, olfaction and nasal nitric oxide production, which have both received more attention over the last two decades with consequent findings that are now entering the routine clinical setting.

Recent findings: Olfactory measurements have been optimized and normative data are available, giving clinicians the possibility of testing olfactory function quickly within a patient's workup. The results can lead to more thorough investigations if necessary. Olfactory disorders concern more than just a few people, and these disorders can be a very early sign of Parkinson's disease. Nasal nitric oxide is hypothesized to play a role as an airborne messenger and as an antiinfectious agent in the nose and sinuses and to contribute to the mucociliary clearance. Evidence is growing that the nasal nitric oxide level is a good parameter for diagnosis of ciliary beat impairments and a suitable parameter to monitor treatment success in chronic rhinosinusitis.

Summary: Both nasal nitric oxide and olfactory function are worth testing routinely in any rhinology workup. Valuable clinical information for diagnostic and follow-up purposes can be gained.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Chronic Disease
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Monitoring, Physiologic / methods
  • Mucociliary Clearance / physiology*
  • Nasal Cavity / metabolism
  • Nasal Cavity / physiology
  • Nasal Mucosa / metabolism
  • Nasal Mucosa / physiology
  • Nitric Oxide / analysis
  • Nitric Oxide / biosynthesis*
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Sinusitis / physiopathology*
  • Smell / physiology*


  • Nitric Oxide