'Excellent prognosis' of loss of smell, taste returning in 1 year: 4 new COVID-19 findings

Persistent loss of smell, also known as anosmia, linked to a COVID-19 diagnosis has an excellent prognosis of nearly complete recovery at one year, according to study findings published June 24 by JAMA Network Open

Researchers studied patients with lab-confirmed COVID-19 experiencing acute smell loss over the course of one year. At four-month intervals, patients were asked to complete a survey, and their olfactory function was assessed with psychophysical testing. Hyposmic — having reduced smell and taste — or anosmic patients were followed until objective recovery. Data analysis was performed from June 2020 to March 2021 for 97 patients with acute smell loss beyond seven days. Of the 97 patients, 69.1 percent were women with a mean age of 38.8 years. It should be noted that the cohort consisted mainly of women and patients younger than 50 years old, both factors positively associated with full olfactory recovery.

Four key study findings: 

1. The long-term prognosis for a cohort of patients with anosmia is good. Overall, 96.1 percent of study participants objectively recovered by 12 months. 

2. Two patients remained hyposmic at one year, with persistent abnormalities.  

3. An additional 10 percent gain in recovery can be expected at 12 months, study findings suggest. This is compared with studies with six months follow-up that found only 85.9 percent of patients recover their sense of smell. 

4. Discrepancies exist between self-assessed and objective testing, whereby participants tend to underappreciate the return of normosmia.   

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