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The significance of post-traumatic amnesia as a risk factor in the development of olfactory dysfunction following head injury
  1. I J Swann1,
  2. B Bauza-Rodriguez2,
  3. R Currans3,
  4. J Riley4,
  5. V Shukla5
  1. 1Emergency Medicine Department, Glasgow Royal Infirmary, Glasgow, UK
  2. 2Emergency Medicine Department, Glasgow Royal Infirmary, Glasgow, UK
  3. 3North Glasgow Division, Greater Glasgow Health Board, Glasgow, UK
  4. 4Mathematics Division, Caledonian University, Glasgow, UK
  5. 5Accident and Emergency Medicine, Hull Royal Infirmary, Hull, UK
  1. Correspondence to:
 MrI J Swann
 Emergency Medicine Department, Glasgow Royal Infirmary, 84 Castle Street, Glasgow, G4 0SF, UK; Ian.Swann{at}


Objective: To test the following hypothesis in the assessment of head injury patients: only patients with 5 min or more of post-traumatic amnesia (PTA) are at risk of acute olfactory dysfunction (OD).

Methods: This was a retrospective comparative study of olfactory status in head injury patients seen at a head injury clinic at Glasgow Royal Infirmary from 1985 to 2003. Of 828 clinic attenders, 101 had acute OD. These subjects were compared with a randomly selected control group of 102 patients with head injury but normal olfactory function. The main outcome measure was a significant likelihood of patients with PTA lasting for 5 or more minutes having acute OD compared with those with PTA of less than 5 min.

Results: The likelihood of patients with a PTA of 5 min or more having acute OD compared to those with PTA of less than 5 min is clinically significant with an odds ratio of 9.6 (p<0.01).

Conclusion: Examination of patients with 5 min or more of PTA should include a simple test of sense of smell. Patients with impaired smell sensation should be aware of their condition prior to discharge from hospital. In addition, the need for a CT brain scan and appropriate follow up should be considered.

  • GRI, Glasgow Royal Infirmary
  • OD, olfactory dysfunction
  • PTA, post-traumatic amnesia
  • A&E
  • anosmia
  • head injury
  • olfactory dysfunction
  • post-traumatic amnesia

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  • Funding: none

  • Competing interests: none declared

  • Ethics approval: not required