PURPOSE To evaluate the sites of injury in patients with posttraumatic olfactory deficits and to compare damage with findings on clinical olfactory tests.
METHODS Twenty-five patients with posttraumatic olfactory dysfunction were examined by means of olfactory testing, endoscopy, and MR imaging. MR surface-coil scans through the olfactory bulbs and tracts and head-coil scans of the temporal lobes were evaluated. Quantitative and qualitative gradings of damage to the olfactory bulbs, tracts, subfrontal region, hippocampus, and temporal lobes were compared with results on tests of odor identification, detection, memory, and discrimination.
RESULTS Twelve patients were anosmic, eight had severe impairment, and five were mildly impaired. Injuries to the olfactory bulbs and tracts (88% of patients), subfrontal region (60%), and temporal lobes (32%) were found, but these did not correlate well with individual olfactory test scores. Volumetric analysis showed that patients without smell function had greater volume loss in olfactory bulbs and tracts than did those posttraumatic patients who retained some sense of smell. Qualitative and quantitative assessments of damage showed few significant correlations with olfactory tests, probably because of multifocal injuries, primary olfactory nerve damage, and the constraints of a small sample size on the detection of clinically significant differences.
CONCLUSION MR imaging shows abnormalities in patients with posttraumatic olfactory dysfunction at a very high rate (88%), predominantly in the olfactory bulbs and tracts and the inferior frontal lobes.
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