Topical nasal anesthesia and laryngopharyngeal sensory testing: A prospective, double-blind crossover study

Paul E. Johnson, Peter C. Belafsky, Gregory N. Postma

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Laryngopharyngeal sensory discrimination testing (LPSDT) has become a popular means of detecting sensory deficits in patients with voice and/or swallowing complaints. During this procedure, transnasal fiberoptic laryngoscopy (TFL) using a specialized fiberoptic scope is performed in order to deliver discrete pulses of air to the laryngopharyngeal mucosa. Historically, topical anesthesia has been applied to the nasal mucosa to lessen discomfort during TFL. Because of the concern that topical nasal anesthesia could also anesthetize the laryngopharynx, it is usually not used during sensory testing. To prospectively compare LPSDT scores after the nasal administration of cocaine hydrochloride, oxymetazoline hydrochloride, and saline solution, we prospectively evaluated 15 subjects undergoing LPSDT. Each had the procedure performed on 3 separate occasions. Before examination, each patient was administered either 4% cocaine, 0.05% oxymetazoline, or saline solution by atomizer (2 sprays of 1-second duration to each naris). By the conclusion of the study, each patient had undergone sensory testing with each of the test agents. During each examination, the minimal air pulse eliciting the laryngeal adductor reflex was recorded for both sides of the laryngopharynx. Both patient and examiner were blinded to the test agent used. The mean sensory score for saline solution was 3.9 mm Hg. The sensory scores for oxymetazoline and cocaine were 3.4 and 3.5 mm Hg, respectively. When compared to saline solution and oxymetazoline independently, sensory testing of the laryngopharynx during which the nose was anesthetized with cocaine resulted in similar thresholds for eliciting the laryngeal adductor reflex (p =. 40 and p =. 85). We conclude that topical anesthesia can be applied to the nasal cavity during LPSDT without altering laryngeal sensation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)14-16
Number of pages3
JournalAnnals of Otology, Rhinology and Laryngology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Laryngopharyngeal sensory discrimination testing
  • Topical nasal anesthesia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology


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