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Loss of Smell Following Traumatic Brain Injury

A frequent and overlooked complaint following a traumatic brain injury is the loss of the sense of smell and consequently loss of taste.  This deficit has profound implications for the quality of an individuals life.  Loss of smell not only deprives one of an important sense sensation and memory but also has important implications for placing an individual in danger.  Consider not being able to determine if food is rancid, milk is sour or if something is burning. 

Although smell is controlled by the first cranial nerve, this is very rarely tested in the basic gross neurological exam administered in a doctor's office or in the emergency room.

A new study published in the July issue of the Emergency Medical Journal found a strong association between the loss of smell and the period of post traumatic amnesia.  The study concludes that there is a strong likelihood of loss of smell following a head injury with post traumatic amnesia of 5 minutes or longer.  The authors recommend that the sense of smell be tested in all patient's who present with a history of head injury and post traumatic amnesia of 5 minutes or more.

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