The effect of early division of the chorda tympani on gustatory function | Ear, Nose & Throat Journal Skip to content Skip to navigation

The effect of early division of the chorda tympani on gustatory function

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November 22, 2011
by Bruno Kenway, BMedSci, MRCS, DOHNS, Anand Kasbekar, BMedSci, MRCS, DOHNS, Neil Donnelly, MSc, FRCS (ORLHNS), and Patrick Axon, MD, FRCS (ORLHNS)


This study was undertaken to assess dysgeusia in patients who have undergone middle ear surgery for chronic suppurative otitis media (CSOM) when the surgeon's practice was to cleanly divide the chorda tympani without prior manipulation, if it in any way hindered operative access or the aims of surgery. We wanted to determine whether lower rates of taste disturbance might be obtained by early, clean division of the nerve. We followed 110 patients prospectively and asked them to complete a postoperative dysgeusia questionnaire 1 year after surgery. The “cut nerve” group included 81 patients, and the “uncut nerve” group included 29 patients. In the uncut group, the nerve was untouched or underwent minimal handling. In the cut nerve group, 68% of patients had no taste disturbance after surgery; 4% of patients in this group had ongoing symptoms at 1 year postoperatively. In the uncut nerve group, 67% were asymptomatic, while 11% had ongoing taste disturbance at 1 year. Statistical analysis of symptoms beyond 1 year showed a mean difference of 7%, but this is not statistically significant (p = 0.38). These results suggest that early division of the chorda tympani without prior manipulation in patients with chronic suppurative otitis media does not result in higher rates of taste disturbance than in patients with uncut nerves. Indeed rates of taste disturbance in our cut group were lower than in the uncut group, and lower than or comparable to those seen in other studies.

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