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High prevalence of long-term olfactory, gustatory, and chemesthesis dysfunction in post-COVID-19 patients: a matched case-control study with one-year follow-up using a comprehensive psychophysical evaluation

Volume: 59 - Issue: 6

First page: 517 - Last page: 527

P. Boscolo-Rizzo - T. Hummel - C. Hopkins - M. Dibattista - A. Menini - G. Spinato - C. Fabbris - E. Emanuelli - A. D’Alessandro - R. Marzolino - E. Zanelli - E. Cancellieri - K. Cargnelutti - S. Fadda - D. Borsetto - L.A. Vaira - N. Gardenal - J. Polesel - G. Tirelli

Background: Using an age and gender matched-pair case-control study, we aimed to estimate the long-term prevalence of psychophysical olfactory, gustatory , and chemesthesis impairment at least one year after SARS-CoV-2 infection considering the background of chemosensory dysfunction in non-COVID-19 population.
Methodology: This case-controlled study included 100 patients who were home-isolated for mildly symptomatic COVID-19 between March and April 2020. One control regularly tested for SARS-CoV-2 infection and always tested negative was matched to each case according to gender and age. Chemosensory function was investigated by a comprehensive psychophysical evaluation including ortho- and retronasal olfaction and an extensive assessment of gustatory function. Differences in chemosensory parameters were evaluated through either Fisher’s exact test or Kruskal-Wallis test.
Results: The psychophysical assessment of chemosensory function took place after a median of 401 days from the first SARS-CoV-2 positive swab. The evaluation of orthonasal smell identified 46% and 10% of cases and controls, respectively, having olfactory dysfunction, with 7% of COVID-19 cases being functionally anosmic. Testing of gustatory function revealed a 27% of cases versus 10% of controls showing a gustatory impairment. Nasal trigeminal sensitivity was significantly lower in cases compared to controls. Persistent chemosensory impairment was associated with emotional distress and depression.
Conclusion: More than one year after the onset of COVID-19, cases exhibited an excess of olfactory, gustatory , and chemesthesis disturbances compared to matched-pair controls with these symptoms being associated to emotional distress and depression.

Rhinology 59-6: 517-527, 2021

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