Objective measures of upper respiratory function are needed to understand the effects of inhaled toxicants on the nasal passages. Acoustic rhinometry (AR) is a simple new technique that determines nasal volume by measuring the cross-sectional area of the upper airway as a function of the distance along the nasal passage. This study compares acoustic rhinometry with the more traditional posterior rhinomanometry (NAR) and correlates-these objective measures with the symptom of nasal congestion. Healthy young adults (n = 29) were studied on 4 days, each separated by at least 1 wk, in a climate-controlled environmental chamber far 6 h, with exposure to clean air or sidestream tobacco smoke (SS) (2 h, 1, 5, and 15 ppm CO). The coefficient of variation for single measurements was 8-15% (AR) and 4% (NAR); for across-day measurements it was 15-25% (AR) and 13-15% (NAR); and for between days it was 79-27% AR and 17-27% (NAR). These coefficients were similar in subjects with a history of environmental tobacco smoke sensitivity (ETS-S) and those with no history of ETS sensitivity (ETS-NS). At baseline, the perception of unilateral nasal congestion was significantly correlated with unilateral nasal dimensions or nasal resistance; the symptom of baseline bilateral nasal congestion (estimated for both nasal passages simultaneously) correlated less well with objective measures of nasal patency. Under challenge conditions (55 at 1-15 ppm CO), there were typically significant correlations between changes in unilateral congestion and both unilateral rhinomanometry and acoustic rhinometry, but correlations of bilateral congestion and measurable dimensions were much lower. ETS-S and ETS-NS subjects differed in correlations between bilateral subjective and objective measures: ETS-S subjects showed significant correlation between baseline congestion and NAR; in contrast, ETS-NS subjects showed significant correlation between baseline congestion and acoustic rhinometry. These results indicate that NAR and AR are complementary tests for use in inhalation challenge studies and have different correlations with nasal congestion under baseline and challenge conditions.
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