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Laryngoscope. 2004 Jul;114(7):1206-13.

Posttonsillectomy taste distortion: a significant complication.

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  • 1Wake Forest University Smell and Taste Center, Department of Otolaryngology, Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, NC 27157, USA.

Abstract

OBJECTIVE/HYPOTHESIS:

Tonsillectomy is among the most commonly performed procedures. As with any surgery, head and neck surgeons must be aware of possible complications and their potential affects. At our smell and taste center, we have been referred several patients in a 6-month period with the complaint of taste distortion after tonsillectomy. We report in this article a patient that complains of taste distortion after a right tonsillectomy for unilateral tonsillar hypertrophy.

STUDY DESIGN:

A prospective study documenting taste distortion after tonsillectomy using clinical, subjective, and objective evaluation.

METHODS:

The clinical course of a patient with taste distortion after a tonsillectomy is described. The gustatory function was investigated by conducting electrogustometry and spatial taste testing. Threshold measurements were determined at three left- and three right-side tongue regions: 1) the tongue tip region (innervated by the chorda tympani branch of the facial nerve), 2) the lateral margin of the tongue (anterior to the foliate papillae), and 3) the posterior tongue region (innervated by the lingual branch of the glossopharyngeal nerve).

RESULTS:

After a complete clinical evaluation and taste testing, it was found that the patient suffered an injury to the right lingual branch of the glossopharyngeal nerve. The close anatomic relationship between the palatine tonsil and lingual branch of the glossopharyngeal nerve makes the nerve vulnerable during tonsillectomy. This injury has caused the patient to suffer ageusia to the right posterior one third of the tongue, compensated by a contralateral phantogeusia (phantom taste) with clinical dysgeusia. The phantogeusia was abolished by application of anesthetic to the area where the phantom was perceived. We propose that the phantogeusia is the result of release-of-inhibition in the contralateral glossopharyngeal nerve.

CONCLUSION:

Taste distortion (including, phantogeusia and dysgeusia) after tonsillectomy is rarely reported as a complication but has a significant impact on quality of life. This article examines the taste distortion presence as a complication after tonsillectomy to make head and neck surgeons aware of this serious complication and the pathophysiology of taste distortion.

PMID:
15235350
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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