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Neurological Disorders - Neuroscience - Physiology - Radiology and Medical Imaging

Structural Olfactory Nerve Changes in Patients Suffering from Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension
Published: Friday, April 06, 2012
Author: Christoph Schmidt et al.

by Christoph Schmidt, Edzard Wiener, Jan Hoffmann, Randolf Klingebiel, Felix Schmidt, Tobias Hofmann, Lutz Harms, Hagen Kunte


Complications of idiopathic intracranial hypertension (IIH) are usually caused by elevated intracranial pressure (ICP). In a similar way as in the optic nerve, elevated ICP could also compromise the olfactory nerve system. On the other side, there is growing evidence that an extensive lymphatic network system around the olfactory nerves could be disturbed in cerebrospinal fluid disorders like IIH. The hypothesis that patients with IIH suffer from hyposmia has been suggested in the past. However, this has not been proven in clinical studies yet. This pilot study investigates whether structural changes of the olfactory nerve system can be detected in patients with IIH.

Methodology/Principal Findings

Twenty-three patients with IIH and 23 matched controls were included. Olfactory bulb volume (OBV) and sulcus olfactorius (OS) depth were calculated by magnetic resonance techniques. While mean values of total OBV (128.7±38.4 vs. 130.0±32.6 mm3, p=0.90) and mean OS depth (8.5±1.2 vs. 8.6±1.1 mm, p=0.91) were similar in both groups, Pearson correlation showed that patients with a shorter medical history IIH revealed a smaller OBV (r=0.53, p<0.01). In untreated symptomatic patients (n=7), the effect was greater (r=0.76, p<0.05). Patients who suffered from IIH for less than one year (n=8), total OBV was significantly smaller than in matched controls (116.6±24.3 vs. 149.3±22.2 mm3, p=0.01). IIH patients with visual disturbances (n=21) revealed a lower OS depth than patients without (8.3±0.9 vs. 10.8±1.0 mm, p<0.01).


The results suggest that morphological changes of the olfactory nerve system could be present in IIH patients at an early stage of disease.