Morphology, Not Only Volume: A Study on Empty Nose Syndrome and Inferior Turbinates

Laryngoscope. 2024 Mar 23. doi: 10.1002/lary.31328. Online ahead of print.


Objectives: Empty nose syndrome (ENS) is an underdiagnosed but burdensome clinical condition. Studies that have addressed the impact of remnant inferior turbinate volume (ITV) on ENS are scarce. We aimed to evaluate the impact of ITV and phenotyping on the severity and presentation of ENS.

Methods: All the enrolled patients underwent the following subjective assessments: the ENS 6-Item Questionnaire (ENS6Q), Sino-Nasal Outcome Test-25 (SNOT-25), Beck Depression Inventory-II (BDI-II) and Beck Anxiety Inventory (BAI). The ITV was obtained from finely cut (1-mm-thick slices) sino-nasal computed tomography scan images and analyzed using ImageJ. The correlation between ITV, subjective measurements, and morphology of inferior turbinates was evaluated. ENS was categorized as torpedo type (balanced tissue volume) or pistol type (posterior dominance) based on the morphology.

Results: Overall, 54 patients met the inclusion criteria. The ITV was positively correlated with the ENS6Q score and domain of ENS symptoms in SNOT-25. Neither BDI-II nor BAI scores had a significant correlation with ITV. Based on their morphological classification, the torpedo type exhibited diverse manifestations in the SNOT-25 analysis in response to changes in ITV, while the pistol type demonstrated an elevated rhinologic symptom burden and ENS-specific symptoms as their ITV increased. Nasal resistance did not correlate with the ITV in either type of ENS.

Conclusions: Symptoms were paradoxically worse in ENS patients with greater remnant ITV, and distinct morphological phenotypes in the nasal cavities may result in different presentations. Further investigation into the correlation between remnant inferior turbinates and nerve function is warranted.

Level of evidence: 3 Laryngoscope, 2024.

Keywords: ENS‐6Q; SNOT‐25; empty nose syndrome; inferior turbinate volume; morphological phenotype.