Cytologic and functional alterations of nasal mucosa in smokers: Temporary or permanent damage?

Giulio Pagliuca, Chiara Rosato, Salvatore Martellucci, Marco De Vincentiis, Antonio Greco, Massimo Fusconi, Armando De Virgilio, Camilla Gallipoli, Marilia Simonelli, Andrea Gallo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective. Tobacco smoke is a significant risk factor for respiratory diseases. The purpose of this study is to analyze the cytologic and functional features of nasal mucosa in smokers, nonsmokers, and ex-smokers to evaluate if nasal alterations in smokers are permanent or reversible conditions after smoking cessation. Study Design. Case series with planned data collection. Setting. University medical center. Subjects and Methods. Ninety healthy volunteers recruited from the staff of Alfredo Fiorini Hospital, Sapienza University of Rome, were enrolled in this prospective study from October to November 2013. We divided the cases according to smoking habits (smokers, nonsmokers, ex-smokers). Each group was composed of 30 subjects. Cytologic features of nasal mucosa and effectiveness of nasal mucociliary clearance were studied, focusing on 4 parameters: (1) nasal mucociliary clearance, assessed by saccharin nasal transit time; (2) ratio between the number of ciliated cells and goblet cells, analyzed by microscopic observation of cytologic specimens of nasal mucosa that had undergone May Grunwald Giemsa staining; (3) evaluation of ciliary motility; and (4) time of ciliary movement of ciliated cells analyzed by phase-contrast microscopy. Results. All parameters were significantly reduced in the smokers compared to the nonsmokers. There were no statistically significant differences between the nonsmoker and ex-smoker groups. Conclusion. Cigarette smoking causes cytologic modifications of nasal mucosa that influence the effectiveness of mucociliary clearance. Our preliminary study suggests that these changes are not permanent and that nasal mucosa of exsmokers recovers normal cytologic and functional features

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)740-745
Number of pages6
JournalOtolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 7 2015


  • mucociliary clearance
  • nasal cytology
  • phase-contrast microscopy
  • smoke

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology
  • Surgery
  • Medicine(all)


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