Medical Minute: Smelling Out Sinusitis

Sinusitis can be a frustrating condition. Patients often have to undergo tests and wait days for results before the correct diagnosis can be made and the right medication prescribed.
Now, doctors in Philadelphia are using computers to sniff out the right diagnosis on the spot

For nearly eighty years, Jeanette Ruday never had a problem with her sinuses.

"I started coughing, and then I coughed and coughed and coughed," Jeanette says.

Doctors prescribed one medication after another often the wrong one.

"You can have your prescription filled, and then they call you and they say, 'We have to change it. It's not the correct drug for you.'"

These days, she only fills enough to get her by until test results come in. In the future, patients won't have that problem.

"Ultimately what we hope to have is a device that can determine whether or not what you have is sinusitis, and if so, what kind of sinusitis."

The electronic nose is based on an ancient practice.

"Physicians going way, way back to the dawn of time used their noses to smell people's breath and urine and bodies and diagnose diseases," says Dr. Bill Hanson.

Similarly, the device "smells" exhaled gases. Sensors compare them to odors they're trained to recognize.

"You'd start therapies either earlier, which would be good, or you wouldn't start therapies that weren't warranted."

A study on the nose for detecting pneumonia found clear distinctions between patients with the infection and those who were healthy. It may have taken trial and error to help her, but Jeanette is finally finding enough relief that she can enjoy her days with her husband Harry cough-free.

For more information, contact:

Dr. Bill Hanson

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