Study shows no change in sense of taste after tonsil removal

July 16, 2007

In a small study of patients undergoing tonsillectomy, or removal of the tonsils, none reported an ongoing dysfunction in their sense of taste following the procedure, according to a report in the July issue of Archives of Otolaryngology–Head & Neck Surgery, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

Together with the sense of smell and nerve impulses in the mouth, “the sense of taste contributes considerably to flavor perception during eating and drinking and thus plays a major role in the enjoyment of foods and beverages,” according to background information in the article. The sense of taste shows little deterioration during aging but can be weakened by disease or medications. Accidental nerve damage during some medical procedures, including radiation treatment, middle ear surgery, dental or oral surgery or tonsillectomy, also can cause taste dysfunction.

Christian A. Mueller, M.D., of the University of Vienna, Austria, and colleagues asked 65 tonsillectomy patients (42 females, 23 males; average age 28) to rate their own sense of smell and taste before surgery on a scale of zero to 100, where zero is no sense of taste or smell and 100 is an excellent sense of taste and smell. Taste function and sensitivity also was assessed one day before surgery with gustatory testing, during which taste strips for four concentrations of sweet, sour, salty and bitter were applied to both sides of the front and back areas of the tongue. Between 64 and 173 days after surgery, patients were asked to report any changes to their sense of taste or smell and again asked to rate them from zero to 100. Gustatory testing was performed again on 32 patients.

On average, patients’ ratings of their sense of taste and smell decreased following surgery—the average score was 62.3 before surgery and 51.1 after surgery. However, there were no significant changes in gustatory test scores following surgery. In addition, none of the patients reported ongoing dysfunction in their sense of taste or smell at the follow-up questioning.

“This raises the question of whether taste ratings also depend on attentional factors,” the authors write. “Thus, it may be hypothesized that the patients’ ratings of taste function were influenced by the presence of postoperative pain, oral discomfort or wound healing during the first days and weeks after tonsillectomy.”

“A number of case reports and a few systematic investigations of patients experiencing taste disorders after tonsillectomy have been published,” they conclude. “However, based on the present results, taste loss after tonsillectomy seems to be a rare complication.”

Source: JAMA and Archives Journals

Explore further: Our fight with fat—why is obesity getting worse?

Related Stories

Our fight with fat—why is obesity getting worse?

December 27, 2017
Gyms across the country will be packed in the new year with people sticking, however briefly, to their New Year's resolution to lose weight. Most of them do not know that the cards are stacked against them and that weight ...

Dulled sense of taste may boost weight-loss surgery results

November 5, 2014
(HealthDay)—Some people can't taste food as well after undergoing weight-loss surgery, but this side effect may help them shed more weight, new research suggests.

Lost sense of smell often invisible, untreatable problem

June 17, 2014
Mimi Koberlein woke up one morning unable to smell the bacon her husband was frying for breakfast. Confused, she ran to the shower, grabbed her shampoo and inhaled deeply. Nothing. Two years later, Koberlein, 47, still can't ...

Expect changes in appetite, taste of food after weight loss surgery

April 16, 2014
Changes in appetite, taste and smell are par for the course for people who have undergone Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery during which one's stomach is made smaller and small intestines shortened. These sensory changes are ...

Taste bud biomarker forecasts better post-surgery results for some sinusitis patients

November 12, 2015
A simple taste test can identify patients who will have highly successful sinus surgery, researchers from Penn Medicine and the Monell Chemical Senses Center report in this week's International Forum of Allergy & Rhinology. ...

Sweet taste receptors are primary sentinels in defense against bacterial infections in the upper airway, study finds

February 18, 2014
(Medical Xpress)—The body uses mucus as a protective barrier to defend against pathogens, toxins, and allergens in the upper respiratory tract that can lead to such conditions as chronic sinusitis. Aiding in this defense ...

Recommended for you

Best of Last Year—The top Medical Xpress articles of 2017

December 20, 2017
It was a good year for medical research as a team at the German center for Neurodegenerative Diseases, Magdeburg, found that dancing can reverse the signs of aging in the brain. Any exercise helps, the team found, but dancing ...

Pickled in 'cognac', Chopin's heart gives up its secrets

November 26, 2017
The heart of Frederic Chopin, among the world's most cherished musical virtuosos, may finally have given up the cause of his untimely death.

Sugar industry withheld evidence of sucrose's health effects nearly 50 years ago

November 21, 2017
A U.S. sugar industry trade group appears to have pulled the plug on a study that was producing animal evidence linking sucrose to disease nearly 50 years ago, researchers argue in a paper publishing on November 21 in the ...

Female researchers pay more attention to sex and gender in medicine

November 7, 2017
When women participate in a medical research paper, that research is more likely to take into account the differences between the way men and women react to diseases and treatments, according to a new study by Stanford researchers.

Drug therapy from lethal bacteria could reduce kidney transplant rejection

August 3, 2017
An experimental treatment derived from a potentially deadly microorganism may provide lifesaving help for kidney transplant patients, according to an international study led by investigators at Cedars-Sinai.

Exploring the potential of human echolocation

June 25, 2017
People who are visually impaired will often use a cane to feel out their surroundings. With training and practice, people can learn to use the pitch, loudness and timbre of echoes from the cane or other sounds to navigate ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.