Ohio woman’s sense of taste and smell return 2 years later thanks to new Cleveland Clinic treatment

An Ohio woman’s sense of taste and smell has returned two years after first suffering COVID symptoms thanks to a new Cleveland Clinic treatment. (Source: WOIO)
Published: Apr. 3, 2023 at 10:37 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Picture this – your sense of smell is gone and all of your favorite foods test like garbage. As awful as it sounds it is the grim reality for millions of people with long hauler COVID-19 symptoms.

54-year-old Jennifer Henderson used to love going out to dinner with her husband. She loved cooking and trying new recipes, but her love for food went out the window two years ago after she contracted COVID-19.

“We just wanna see if there’s any change at all and this might be really early so we’ll just you know, smell it first,” a Cleveland Clinic medical provider told Henderson following her treatment. “See if you could smell it.”

“I can smell it!” Henderson cried.

Before receiving this treatment at the Cleveland Clinic, Henderson said bananas tasted like metal and garlic tasted like gasoline.

“It’s better,” Henderson exclaimed immediately after her first treatment. “It’s better! I don’t taste like chemicals anymore. Thank you!”

Desperate for relief Henderson started scouring the internet. She heard about a common pain management treatment that was being used to help covid long haulers restore their sense of taste and smell. Then she found Cleveland Clinic anesthesiologist and pain medicine specialists Christina Shin, MD, and Jijun Xu, MD, PhD.

“We were kind of able to do a simple intervention we use commonly for chronic pain management namely stellate ganglion block to help improve or get the patient taste and smell back,” said Dr. Xu.

Dr. Xu has treated a couple dozen patients with this treatment so far. He said the procedure is easy and very low risk. Some patients like Henderson, see results right away but for others, it can take several days or even weeks.

“I would say I have maybe around 50% of my patients have quick and rapid response to this block and was able to at least restore some of their smell or taste function,” said Dr. Xu.

Henderson has had two more SGB injections since. She said her senses are almost entirely back to normal.

“We still don’t know how it works but this is a hope for some patients with long-term COVID symptoms and we’re here trying to help those who need to get their taste or smell back, and we are still working to see how it works and try to optimize the technique and approach in order to serve more patients,” said Dr. Xu.

If you are suffering from a loss of smell or a distorted sense of taste due to COVID-19, you can contact Cleveland Clinic’s Recover Clinic for more information on this treatment at 216-444-6503.