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Discoveries Unveiled: Loss of Smell Post Traumatic Brain Injury Can Severely Impact Quality of Life.

Posted by Florida Spine and Injury | Feb 9, 2024 11:52:09 AM

Close your eyes and picture what Thanksgiving dinner cooking smells like in your home. Or think of what it was like to smell the head of your newborn child as you hold them close. Have you ever been walking by a store and all of a sudden had memories flood back because they were selling the same perfume your grandmother wore?

Or even worse, have you ever been dumb enough to indulge one of your children saying, "Hey Dad, smell my finger?" I'm proud to say I've only fallen for this ruse once (my youngest son caught me off guard when he was 5, and let's just say his finger did not smell like Thanksgiving dinner or Grandma's perfume), and it's seared in my brain never to repeat the mistake!

Smells provide some of the most powerful stimulation to the brain, and has a profound impact on our memory and how we perceive the world. If you'd like a great overview of the phenomenon, I highly suggest this recent article from the Harvard Gazette titled "The Nose Knows".

It is well established that traumatic brain injury can lead to decrease or loss of smell. Studies have shown roughly 20% of TBI patients suffer with temporary or permanent olfactory dysfunction. This can be measured using standardized testing like the University of Pennsylvania Smell Identification Test (UPSIT) which we routinely utilize with our TBI patients.

A recent study helped to quantify an often overlooked element related to loss of smell: decreased quality of life.

Published in the January 2020 issue of the European Archives of Oto-Rhino-Laryngology, the study compared qualify of life in TBI patients with and without olfactory dysfunction. Previous studies had evaluated the impact of olfactory dysfunction on quality of life in areas like food enjoyment, hazard avoidance, personal hygiene, and social isolation; but very few had ever looked at this in the context of post TBI olfactory problems.

The study found that when TBI patients with olfactory issues were compared with TBI patients whose smell/taste was unaffected, those in the former group were 5 times as likely to feel more anxious, 3.4 times more likely to have weight problems, 5.5 times more likely to avoid groups of people, and 6 times as likely to feel isolated.

Remember, this isn't even comparing them to the general public, but to patients who have TBI but have their olfactory function intact.

This is why a detailed assessment of numerous aspects of brain function is critical. Too often cognitive performance and perhaps an MRI are the only tests that are performed, and it's no wonder that patients and their attorneys alike are often left with more questions than answers when it comes to objective evidence of TBI.

At Ethos, we understand that preventing olfactory issues may not be possible, but we have an extensive range of testing options available. Our cutting-edge technologies, such as VNG, EEG with ERP, oculomotor tracking, and balance testing, provide us with a wealth of valuable data for review. Rest assured, we have a plethora of therapies that greatly improve the quality of life for our patients. Whether you or someone you know requires TBI diagnostics, TBI rehab or therapy, or a neurology evaluation, our Florida locations are here to help. Feel free to contact us via email at drwalker@flspineandinjury.com or give us a call directly at 904-616-1284. We look forward to assisting you!

Topics: TBI

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