Interventions for the treatment of persistent post‐COVID‐19 olfactory dysfunction

Lisa O'Byrne, Katie E. Webster, Samuel MacKeith, Carl Philpott, Claire Hopkins, Martin J. Burton

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

Background: Olfactory dysfunction is an early and sensitive marker of COVID-19 infection. Although self-limiting in the majority of cases, when hyposmia or anosmia persists it can have a profound effect on quality of life. Little guidance exists on the treatment of post-COVID-19 olfactory dysfunction, however several strategies have been proposed from the evidence relating to the treatment of post-viral anosmia (such as medication or olfactory training). Objectives: To assess the effects (benefits and harms) of interventions that have been used, or proposed, to treat persisting olfactory dysfunction due to COVID-19 infection. A secondary objective is to keep the evidence up-to-date, using a living systematic review approach. Search methods: The Cochrane ENT Information Specialist searched the Cochrane COVID-19 Study Register; Cochrane ENT Register; CENTRAL; Ovid MEDLINE; Ovid Embase; Web of Science; ClinicalTrials.gov; ICTRP and additional sources for published and unpublished studies. The date of the search was 16 December 2020. Selection criteria: Randomised controlled trials including participants who had symptoms of olfactory disturbance following COVID-19 infection. Only individuals who had symptoms for at least four weeks were included in this review. Studies compared any intervention with no treatment or placebo. Data collection and analysis: We used standard Cochrane methodological procedures. Primary outcomes were the recovery of sense of smell, disease-related quality of life and serious adverse effects. Secondary outcomes were the change in sense of smell, general quality of life, prevalence of parosmia and other adverse effects (including nosebleeds/bloody discharge). We used GRADE to assess the certainty of the evidence for each outcome. Main results: We included one study with 18 participants, which compared the use of a 15-day course of oral steroids combined with nasal irrigation (consisting of an intranasal steroid/mucolytic/decongestant solution) with no intervention. Psychophysical testing was used to assess olfactory function at baseline, 20 and 40 days. Systemic corticosteroids plus intranasal steroid/mucolytic/decongestant compared to no intervention. Recovery of sense of smell was assessed after 40 days (25 days after cessation of treatment) using the Connecticut Chemosensory Clinical Research Center (CCCRC) score. This tool has a range of 0 to 100, and a score of ≥ 90 represents normal olfactory function. The evidence is very uncertain about the effect of this intervention on recovery of the sense of smell at one to three months (5/9 participants in the intervention group scored ≥ 90 compared to 0/9 in the control group; risk ratio (RR) 11.00, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.70 to 173.66; 1 study; 18 participants; very low-certainty evidence). Change in sense of smell was assessed using the CCCRC score at 40 days. This study reported an improvement in sense of smell in the intervention group from baseline (median improvement in CCCRC score 60, interquartile range (IQR) 40) compared to the control group (median improvement in CCCRC score 30, IQR 25) (1 study; 18 participants; very low-certainty evidence). Serious adverse events andother adverse events were not identified in any participants of this study; however, it is unclear how these outcomes were assessed and recorded (1 study; 18 participants; very low-certainty evidence). Authors' conclusions: There is very limited evidence available on the efficacy and harms of treatments for persistent olfactory dysfunction following COVID-19 infection. However, we have identified other ongoing trials in this area. As this is a living systematic review we will update the data regularly, as new results become available. For this (first) version of the living review we identified only one study with a small sample size, which assessed systemic steroids and nasal irrigation (intranasal steroid/mucolytic/decongestant). However, the evidence regarding the benefits and harms from this intervention to treat persistent post-COVID-19 olfactory dysfunction is very uncertain.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberCD013876
JournalCochrane Library
Volume2021
Issue number7
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 22 Jul 2021

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