Tonsillectomy In Children: New Studies Reveal Risks Outweigh Benefits - Should Kids Still Have It?

By Amanda Moore, Parent Herald January 20, 04:00 am
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Tonsillectomy is a standard surgical procedure but it is still a major surgery.
(Photo : Christopher Furlong/Getty Images )

Tonsillectomy is a common surgical procedure done for children under 15-years-old. This surgery was highly demanded in the '70s and '80s as a strep throat infection prevention or as relief for breathing problems for kids with sleep apnea.

Medical experts, however, saw a decline in the demand for tonsillectomy in recent years but some families still opt for it. Two new researches, which has been published in the Pediatrics journal, took an in-depth look on the surgery's benefits to help pediatricians and parents gauge if kids should still have it.

In the studies, experts determined that tonsillectomy does help with strep throat infection and sleep apnea. In the first few years, children who have had their tonsils taken out experienced fewer school absences or required less treatment for strep throat infection. Those who suffer from sleep apnea also experienced improved sleep.

Doctors usually recommend a tonsillectomy if the children suffer from chronic throat infection or frequent sleep disorders. This is because their tonsils are likely enlarged, thus obstructing breathing and infected with too much bacteria and germs.

The new studies reveal, however, the benefits of tonsillectomy are only short-lived and might decrease over time. Children without tonsils are likely to still develop strep throat infection or suffer from sleep problems in the same frequency as children with intact tonsils following three years of the surgery.

The researchers suggest parents and pediatricians should work together to carefully weigh getting a tonsillectomy for their kids. They note that surgery still comes with risks such infection, swelling, serious bleeding or a bad reaction to the anesthetics, CNN reports.

"The major takeaway messages from these two studies is that you need to have a very objectively determined diagnosis before tonsillectomy surgery can be recommended," pediatrics expert David Gozal said. In many cases, parents immediately think that it's the tonsils that are making their children sick when there could be other factors.

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