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June 21, 2021

Smell training after surgery

Smell training helps patients recover the sense of smell after surgery

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Researchers at the Konkuk University School of Medicine in Seoul, South Korea have published a paper that demonstrates the effectiveness of smell training - olfactory training - for people recovering from nasal surgery.

Chronic Rhinosinusitis (CRS) is a major cause of smell loss. The patient is unable to smell because polyps in the nose or excessive mucus cause a blockage. Odour molecules can’t get through. Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) surgeons frequently operate to remove the blockage and improve sinus function to overcome the effects of CRS.

In most cases following an operation like this, some degree of ability to smell returns. In this study, the research team were interested to see if smell training could actually improve the ability to smell as part of the recovery process after surgery.

They asked one group of patients to commit to smell training for 12 weeks and compared results to a control group who didn’t do smell training. The patients who did smell training for 12 weeks after their surgery had a significantly improved sense of smell compared to the group that didn’t do smell training.

Importantly, the research team found that there was no difference in the results because of sex, age, and length of illness. All the participants who did the smell training had the same chance of recovering their sense of smell.

Recognising the importance of smell

This is one small study, more research will be needed, but it does suggest that smell training following surgery will improve the sense of smell. What is so encouraging about this study is that doctors recognise how important the sense of smell is. Restoring the sense of smell is not just a nice additional benefit of nasal surgery, but fundamental to wellbeing and interaction with the world around us. It is worth taking the time to make sure the patient has the best olfactory experience they can.

It’s the evidence from research like this that helps doctors to become more aware of the sense of smell as an important factor in patients’ health and wellbeing.


The paper is Olfactory training assists in olfactory recovery after sinonasal surgery, JY Park, J Lee, H Kim, T Jung, JK Kim - Authorea Preprints, 2021 

The paper is in preprint at the time this blog was published, June 2021.