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June 1997

Rapid Clinical Evaluation of Anosmia: The Alcohol Sniff Test

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Surgery/Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery, University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine (Drs Davidson and Murphy) and the Department of Psychology, San Diego State University (Dr Murphy).

Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 1997;123(6):591-594. doi:10.1001/archotol.1997.01900060033005

Background:  Smell impairment affects 1% to 2% of Americans and leads to frequent physician visits. Olfactory testing is available in chemosensory centers, but not as part of a routine cranial nerve examination. The alcohol sniff test (AST), which uses the standard 70% isopropyl alcohol pad, was developed as a quick, reliable measure of olfactory function.

Methods:  Sixty-four patients and 36 healthy control subjects (N=100) were tested with the AST and with a standard butanol threshold test.

Results:  The AST reliably, consistently, and correctly measured olfactory function.

Conclusion:  The AST is a rapid, reliable olfactory test that can be used for screening olfactory function and should be incorporated in the routine cranial nerve examination.Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 1997;123:591-594