Cell counts in nasal secretions are not used in routine clinical practice to decide on anti-inflammatory or antimicrobial therapy. This study investigated the reproducibility, reliability (validity), and responsiveness of cell counts in blown nasal secretions with a view to implementing this in routine clinical practice. Nasal secretions were obtained from 19 subjects with allergic rhinitis on 3 days in random order (each separated by 1–2 days) by spontaneously blowing their noses (on 2 days) and by a nasal lavage by the modified Grunberg method on the 3rd day. Total and differential cell counts were performed after dispersing the solutions with dithiothreitol as described previously. At the end of the study, subjects had 1 week of open label treatment with nasal corticosteroids if they had nasal eosinophilia or an antibiotic if they had nasal neutrophilia. If the cell counts were normal, they were not treated. The proportion of eosinophil (%) was highly reproducible (intraclass correlation coefficient [ICC], 0.93), and the total cell count (×106/g) and the proportion of neutrophil (%) were modestly reproducible in blown nasal secretions (ICC, 0.46 and 0.55, respectively). The total cell count was consistently and significantly higher in the blown nasal secretions. The proportion of eosinophils (Rs = 0.4; p < 0.05) and neutrophils (Rs = 0.6; p < 0.05) showed modest correlation in the two types of samples. The responsiveness index for eosinophil count was 4.0 and for neutrophil count was 1.5. Total and differential cell counts can be reliably and reproducibly obtained from spontaneously blown nasal secretions. The cell counts are responsive to treatment and can help identify allergic and infective rhinosinusitis and guide therapy and are easy to implement in routine clinical practice.
Keywords: Blown nasal secretions, cell counts, nasal lavage, repeatability, validity