Frequently Asked Questions
Frequently Asked Questions:
What clinical services are offered at the Smell and Taste Center?
The clinical component of the University of Pennsylvania Smell and Taste Center is devoted to better understanding and treating disorders of the senses of taste and smell. We presently offer a complete evaluation service via telemedicine and, for litigation cases, in-person evaluations. Quantitative test results are analogous to those obtained in hearing and vision, allowing the physician to determine whether and to what degree dysfunction is present and what therapeutic interventions may be appropriate. While the Center provides information to referring physicians regarding options known about available treatments for smell and taste disorders, it is solely up to your physician to determine whether or not to prescribe any given treatment for you.
As part of the University of Pennsylvania Health System and the Otorhinolaryngology Department, we have access to physicians and other top-notch professionals trained in such fields as internal medicine, otorhinolaryngology (ear, nose & throat), neurology, psychiatry, and pharmacology. If needed, we are pleased to provide you with referral information relative to your case and test results.
How long does an evaluation take?
Completion of the self-administered smell and taste tests, as well as the intake questionnaire, will require about an hour of your time. The telemedicine encounter will last up to half an hour. In-person litigation cases can take up to three hours.
Can most chemosensory problems be cured?
Most losses of smell function reflect viruses or head traumas that significantly damage the nerve cells within the olfactory membrane. Prognosis depends, in part, on the magnitude of the sensory losses and how long they have been present. In cases where nasal pathology is the basis of the chemosensory disturbance (e.g., rhinosinusitis, polyposis), medical and surgical interventions are typically effective, so long as chronic inflammation has not significantly damaged the olfactory receptors. In cases where no such pathology exists and clear-cut olfactory loss has been present for some time, prognosis is typically poor, despite the fact that the olfactory receptor cells of the nose have a propensity to regenerate. Taste disturbances are often caused by specific medications and cessation or changing of the medication, or its dose can be effective in some cases. Specialized mouthwashes can be prescribed in some cases to mitigate distorted taste sensations. All of these approaches to therapy are the responsibility of your referring physician or other physicians, not the Center's. The Center can only provide information of potential use to your physician or physicians.
What types of tests are administered at the Center?
Our goal is to evaluate the functioning of a patient’s smell and taste systems. The Center has been at the forefront in the development of quantitative tests for assessing these senses, including ones based upon changes in electrical activity in the brain. A number of the tests we have developed are now employed in thousands of clinics throughout the world and have been administered to well over a million people.
The olfactory and taste tests employed in our telemedicine patients are a 40-odorant 4-alterantive forced-choice test, termed the University of Pennsylvania Smell Identification Test (UPSIT) and a 53-item taste test, termed the Waterless Empirical Taste Test (WETT). Normative data are available for each of these tests, allowing for an accurate determination of an individual’s function relative to their age and gender.
The tests we administer are safe and non-invasive. They are analogous to tests of hearing and vision, most requiring a verbal indication as to whether a stimulus is perceived and how intense or pleasant it seems.
How much does the Center charge for an evaluation?
The cost for the tests that are sent to you and a telemedicine conference is $450.00.
Does insurance cover Center costs?
We operate under self-pay and this out-of-pocket cost is unfortunately not reimbursed by insurance companies.
We accept major credit cards (no cash). If you wish to pay by check, arrangements must be made prior to appointment.
If this is for a litigation (legal) case, the please contact the office as the procedure is different and involves additional costs.
How do I arrange an appointment to be seen at the Center?
Please call the Smell and Taste Center at 215-662-2777 and we will be happy to help you set up an appointment or answer any questions you may have.
What if I have additional questions?
Please email us at OtoSmellTaste@uphs.upenn.edu with your questions and someone will respond to you in a timely manner.