Laterality and severity of nasal obstruction does not correlate between physicians and patients, nor among physicians

Sarah Saxon, Romaine Johnson, Jeffrey H. Spiegel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Background: Nasal obstruction is a common patient complaint and has a variety of etiologies, and a specific anatomical abnormality can often be found within the nasal cavity on physical examination. In practice, this observed pathology does not always correlate with the laterality, severity, and exact intranasal site of the patients' perceived obstruction. Objectives: We seek to answer the following questions: 1) Does a physician's evaluation of nasal obstruction correlate with subjective patient complaints? 2) Is there reasonable correlation between physicians of similar training in the routine evaluation of nasal obstruction? Methods: First, we asked patients presenting to the otolaryngology clinic with a primary complaint of nasal obstruction to fill out a modified NOSE survey. Nasal endoscopy was performed on all subjects to assess all potential sites of obstruction. We then determined whether there is an association between patient complaints and findings on physical examination. Second, we determined if there is correlation between similarly trained physicians in their interpretation of a basic nasal examination. Otolaryngologists were shown a series of standardized videos of an endoscopic nasal examination that were recorded with a primary complaint of nasal obstruction. Findings were reported in an anonymous online survey focusing on laterality, severity, and specific site of perceived obstruction. Results: A total of 38 patients were included in the first part of the study. The Cohen's kappa coefficient was used to determine the interrater agreement between the patient and physician in the degree of nasal obstruction. The kappa coefficient was 0.03 (p value 0.372) for the comparison of the left-sided scores (fair agreement), and 0.16 (p value 0.014) for the right-sided scores (slight agreement). A comparison was also done between the side of the nose the patient felt was most obstructed to the most obstructed side found on physical exam by the otolaryngologist. Thirteen of the 38 patients (34%) had perceived nasal obstruction on the opposite side of that noted to be most obstructed on physical exam. Despite this, the kappa coefficient in this comparison was 0.43 (p value <0.001) revealing moderate agreement between the two groups. Seventeen otolaryngologists participated in the second part of the study. Data extrapolated revealed very little agreement among the physicians in reporting which side of the nose was most obstructed, what anatomical structure contributed to the obstruction the most, and what percentage obstruction was present. Discussion: Based on our findings, patients can reasonably determine based on their symptoms which side is most obstructed, but symptoms do not correlate with severity of obstruction when compared to physical exam. There is also very little consistency between otolaryngologists in their assessment of the degree of nasal obstruction on exam. The results of this study may have far-reaching implications for patient management, surgical intervention, and medicolegal documentation as it relates to the current surgical treatment of nasal obstruction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number103039
JournalAmerican Journal of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Medicine and Surgery
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 1 2021


  • Nasal obstruction
  • Nasal valve
  • Physical exam
  • Septal deviation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology


Dive into the research topics of 'Laterality and severity of nasal obstruction does not correlate between physicians and patients, nor among physicians'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this