Nasal airway obstruction: Prevalence and anatomic contributors

David W. Clark, Anthony G. Del Signore, Roheen Raithatha, Brent A. Senior

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Scopus citations


Surgical treatments for nasal airway obstruction (NAO) are commonly offered as part of otolaryngology practice. Anatomic causes include septal deviation, inferior turbinate hypertrophy, and nasal valve collapse (NVC). This study was performed to determine the prevalence of anatomic contributors to NAO. A total of 1,906 patients with sinonasal complaints were surveyed by 50 otolaryngologists in varying U.S. geographic regions. Patients were first evaluated using the Nasal Obstruction Symptom Evaluation (NOSE) instrument to assess the NAO symptoms and their severity. Physicians then examined patients for the presence of the three anatomic contributors. Presence of septal deviation and turbinate hypertrophy was assessed through an internal nasal exam with direct or endoscopic visualization based on the physician's standard methodology for diagnosis. Presence of NVC was determined by the modified Cottle maneuver. Among all patients surveyed, prevalence was 67% for NVC, 76% for septal deviation, and 72% for inferior turbinate hypertrophy. We found that 64% of the patients (n = 1,211) had severe/extreme NOSE scores (≥55), representing the most likely nasal obstruction candidates for intervention. In these patients, the prevalence of NVC, septal deviation, and inferior turbinate hypertrophy was 73, 80, and 77%, respectively. Eighty-two percent of the 236 patients with severe/extreme NOSE scores who reported prior septoplasty and/or inferior turbinate reduction had NVC. Our study revealed a comparable prevalence of all three anatomic contributors across all patients and the subset with severe/extreme NOSE scores, highlighting the importance of evaluating the lateral nasal wall as a component of NAO treatment strategy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)173-176
Number of pages4
JournalEar, Nose and Throat Journal
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2018
Externally publishedYes


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