Lost Sense of Smell after Heel Surgery: Options and Recommendations

Question: I am a 51-year-old female. I had surgery for an Achilles repair on Feb. 5. 2010 and now I am suffering from a lost sense of smell after heel surgery. Since my surgery, my sense of smell has been greatly diminished. For example, I just finished emptying a garbage can full of old wet gutter debris by shovel into other containers. Something that should have been awful for me to smell and I can say I barely smelled it. I don’t know if there are some things I can smell or if it is just sometimes I can smell. I have smelled coffee brewing, and it seems like I can smell a vanilla hand soap that I have. It makes no sense to me, and I would really love to find out if there is something I can do, or that can be done. Within reason. I don’t know if my weight would have anything to do with it, but I am probably about 70 to 80 pounds overweight. Thanks for any help or advice you can give me.



The loss of the sense of smell can be a devastating problem.   Smell is important not just for the enjoyment of food and activities of life, but for safety – avoiding fire and spoiled foods.  Smell can be lost because of nasal congestion- in that case, air does not reach the smell fibers, or due to damage to the fibers themselves. Damage can occur after trauma, and upper respiratory infection, or for reasons unknown.  Loss of smell may be more common in those who are overweight and can occur after any type of nasal surgery.  I am not sure that there is a known relationship to your recent heel surgery.

This should, however, be evaluated.  One needs to be sure that there is no growth obstructing the smell fibers or damaging them directly.   The nasal cavity should be evaluated to make sure there is no unusual congestion.  Most otolaryngologists (ear nose and throat doctors) can do the appropriate evaluations and recommend therapy if indicated. We, of course, would be happy to see you here at the NY Sinus Center. We refer patients to the Smell and Taste Center at the University of Pennsylvania at times as well.

Robert L. Pincus MD