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Correlation of Nasal Mucosal Temperature With Subjective Nasal Patency in Healthy Individuals. JAMA Facial Plast Surg 2017 Jan 01;19(1):46-52



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Scopus ID

2-s2.0-85012894185   9 Citations


Importance: Historically, otolaryngologists have focused on nasal resistance to airflow and minimum airspace cross-sectional area as objective measures of nasal obstruction using methods such as rhinomanometry and acoustic rhinometry. However, subjective sensation of nasal patency may be more associated with activation of cold receptors by inspired air than with respiratory effort.

Objective: To investigate whether subjective nasal patency correlates with nasal mucosal temperature in healthy individuals.

Design, Setting, and Participants: Healthy adult volunteers first completed the Nasal Obstruction Symptom Evaluation (NOSE) and a unilateral visual analog scale to quantify subjective nasal patency. A miniaturized thermocouple sensor was then used to record nasal mucosal temperature bilaterally in 2 locations along the nasal septum: at the vestibule and across from the inferior turbinate head.

Main Outcomes and Measures: Nasal mucosal temperature and subjective patency scores in healthy individuals.

Results: The 22 healthy adult volunteers (12 [55%] male; mean [SD] age, 28.3 [7.0] years) had a mean (SD) NOSE score of 5.9 (8.4) (range, 0-30) and unilateral VAS score of 1.2 (1.4) (range, 0-5). The range of temperature oscillations during the breathing cycle, defined as the difference between end-expiratory and end-inspiratory temperatures, was greater during deep breaths (mean [SD] change in temperature, 6.2°C [2.6°C]) than during resting breathing (mean [SD] change in temperature, 4.2°C [2.3°C]) in both locations (P < .001). Mucosal temperature measured at the right vestibule had a statistically significant correlation with both right-side visual analog scale score (Pearson r = -0.55; 95% CI, -0.79 to -0.17; P = .008) and NOSE score (Pearson r = -0.47; 95% CI, -0.74 to -0.06; P = .03). No other statistically significant correlations were found between mucosal temperature and subjective nasal patency scores. Nasal mucosal temperature was lower (mean of 1.5°C lower) in the first cavity to be measured, which was the right cavity in all participants.

Conclusions and Relevance: The greater mucosal temperature oscillations during deep breathing are consistent with the common experience that airflow sensation is enhanced during deep breaths, thus supporting the hypothesis that mucosal cooling plays a central role in nasal airflow sensation. A possible correlation was found between subjective nasal patency scores and nasal mucosal temperature, but our results were inconsistent. The higher temperature in the left cavity suggests that the sensor irritated the nasal mucosa, affecting the correlation between patency scores and mucosal temperature. Future studies should consider noncontact temperature sensors to prevent mucosa irritation.

Level of Evidence: NA.

Author List

Bailey RS, Casey KP, Pawar SS, Garcia GJ


Guilherme Garcia PhD Assistant Professor in the Biomedical Engineering department at Medical College of Wisconsin
Sachin S. Pawar MD Chief, Associate Professor in the Otolaryngology department at Medical College of Wisconsin

MESH terms used to index this publication - Major topics in bold

Body Temperature
Nasal Mucosa
Nasal Obstruction
Reference Values
Statistics as Topic
jenkins-FCD Prod-467 7c8a156729bba74d775d9c546792cde315827259