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Invited Commentary
Sept/Oct 2017

Do Not Miss the Fourth Dimension of the Nasal Airway

Author Affiliations
  • 1Hals-Nasen-Ohrenklinik, Kantonsspital St Gallen, St Gallen, Switzerland
JAMA Facial Plast Surg. 2017;19(5):377-378. doi:10.1001/jamafacial.2017.0462

Nasal obstruction as a symptom is supposedly simple to grasp, with the nasal airway being easy to inspect and objective measures for both its resistance and diameter at hand. Because the nasal cavity is also amenable to enlargement through straightforward surgical procedures, a permanently blocked nose ought to be easy to fix. Yet, how often are physicians intrigued by patient dissatisfaction after surgery with what must be considered a success after nasal endoscopy? Little is known about the incidence of postoperative dissatisfaction after septoplasty, with no failures to be seen or measured. One reason for an incongruent appraisal of the outcome of surgery may be that reducing the cause of nasal obstruction or the sensation of nasal fullness to a septal deviation or mucosal edema and to swelling may be simplistic in light of the advances in our understanding of nasal pathologic conditions and mucosal neural regulation. Few studies have shown highly correlated associations of the sensation of nasal fullness with any of the objective parameters measured in routine clinical practice.1 The cause may be that the sensation of fullness is the computational end product of a complex neurologic integrative process. This process encompasses interoceptive sensation on the basis of the currently assessed severity relative to other competing sensory and emotional stimuli. Recollections of the difficulties experienced in breathing through the nose in the recent and more distant past also play a role.1 The sensation of fullness or blockage attributed to the nasal mucosa is a highly integrated interpretation of afferent information from multiple subsets of nociceptive and other neurons, with the perception of cooling during inspiration likely playing a central role.2