Prevalence of Olfactory Dysfunction in Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19): A Meta-analysis of 27,492 Patients

Laryngoscope. 2021 Apr;131(4):865-878. doi: 10.1002/lary.29286. Epub 2020 Dec 5.


Objectives/hypothesis: Olfactory dysfunction has been observed as one of the clinical manifestations in COVID-19 patients. We aimed to conduct a systematic review and meta-analysis to estimate the overall pooled prevalence of olfactory dysfunction in COVID-19 patients.

Study design: Systematic review and meta-analyses.

Methods: PubMed, Scopus, Web of Science, Embase, and Google Scholar databases were searched to identify studies published between 1 December 2019 and 23 July 2020. We used random-effects model to estimate the pooled prevalence with 95% confidence intervals (CIs). Heterogeneity was assessed using the I2 statistic and Cochran's Q test. Robustness of the pooled estimates was checked by different subgroup and sensitivity analyses This study is registered with PROSPERO (CRD42020183768).

Results: We identified 1162 studies, of which 83 studies (n = 27492, 61.4% female) were included in the meta-analysis. Overall, the pooled prevalence of olfactory dysfunction in COVID-19 patients was 47.85% [95% CI: 41.20-54.50]. We observed olfactory dysfunction in 54.40% European, 51.11% North American, 31.39% Asian, and 10.71% Australian COVID-19 patients. Anosmia, hyposmia, and dysosmia were observed in 35.39%, 36.15%, and 2.53% of the patients, respectively. There were discrepancies in the results of studies with objective (higher prevalence) versus subjective (lower prevalence) evaluations. The discrepancy might be due to false-negative reporting observed in self-reported health measures.

Conclusions: The prevalence of olfactory dysfunction in COVID-19 patients was found to be 47.85% based on high-quality evidence. Due to the subjective measures of most studies pooled in the analysis, further studies with objective measures are advocated to confirm the finding.

Level of evidence: 2 Laryngoscope, 131:865-878, 2021.

Keywords: COVID-19; Coronavirus; meta-analysis; olfactory; smell.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19 / complications*
  • COVID-19 / diagnosis*
  • Humans
  • Olfaction Disorders / diagnosis
  • Olfaction Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Olfaction Disorders / virology*
  • Prevalence