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Home Home Oral Health Should More Kids Have Their Tonsils Out?
Should More Kids Have Their Tonsils Out?
News - WebMD Oral Health
Jupiter, FL Dentist

By Dennis Thompson

HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Jan. 17, 2017 (HealthDay News) -- Because of stringent tonsillectomy guidelines, some kids who could benefit from tonsil removal surgery aren't getting it, two new reviews suggest.

To qualify for the surgery, a child must have many recurring throat infections within a short span of time or severe sleep disturbances, said Dr. Sivakumar Chinnadurai, a co-author of the reviews.

An evaluation of current medical evidence suggests more kids would receive significant short-term improvement in their daily life if the guidelines were relaxed, said Chinnadurai, a pediatric otolaryngologist with Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville.

Children experienced nearly half as many sore throats when they underwent a tonsillectomy, even if they didn't meet the guidelines, Chinnadurai and his colleagues found. The kids also missed fewer days of school and were less likely to need medical care.

However, this strong benefit only applies to the first couple of years following surgery, Chinnadurai said. By the third year, there was no clear benefit in terms of the number of throat infections. Also, there was limited research on long-term results.

"The decision about whether those children should have tonsillectomy for that temporary benefit is really tied to what those children need or what they're suffering with," Chinnadurai said. Kids who miss a lot of school or need frequent trips to the doctor due to sore throats could benefit from the surgery, he said.

There's an even clearer benefit for kids whose sleep is disturbed due to inflamed tonsils, Chinnadurai said.

"In a child with a diagnosis of sleep apnea, we can see a benefit in sleep-related quality of life," he said. The kids get better sleep, and thus exhibit better everyday behavior and pay more attention in school.

The medical approach to treating tonsil infections has evolved over recent decades.

Tonsillectomy is the third most common surgery performed on U.S. children, with 530,000 such procedures completed each year, according to the American Academy of Otolaryngology -- Head and Neck Surgery.

Thirty years ago, nine out of 10 tonsillectomies in children were performed to treat recurring throat infections. These days, the procedure is done 20 percent of the time for infections and 80 percent of the time for sleep problems, according to the academy.

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