TUESDAY, July 17, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- Tonsil removal (tonsillectomy) does not cause permanent changes to a person's sense of taste or smell, concludes an Austrian study of 65 patients.
"A number of case reports and a few systematic investigations of patients experiencing taste disorders after tonsillectomy have been published. However, based on the present results, taste loss after tonsillectomy seems to be a rare complication," a team at the University of Vienna wrote in the July issue of the journal Archives of Ophthalmology -- Head & Neck Surgery.
The patients rated their taste and smell on a scale of zero to 100 (zero = no taste and smell, and 100 = excellent taste and smell) before and after surgery.
The patients' self-reported scores declined from an average of 62.3 before surgery to 51.1 after surgery.
However, the researchers also assessed the patients' taste function and sensitivity with "gustatory testing," in which taste strips for four concentrations of sweet, sour, salty and bitter are applied to both sides of the front and back areas of the tongue.
This time, they found no significant differences in the gustatory test scores before and after tonsillectomy. The researchers also noted that none of the patients reported any long-term problems with their sense of taste or smell.
"This raises the question of whether taste ratings also depend on attentional factors," the study authors wrote. "Thus, it may be hypothesized that the patients' ratings of taste function were influenced by the presence of postoperative pain, oral discomfort or wound healing during the first days and weeks after tonsillectomy."
There's more about tonsillectomy at the U.S. National Institutes of Health.