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Tonsillectomy Does Not Reduce Upper Respiratory Infections

By HospiMedica International staff writers
Posted on 11 Jan 2017
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Image: According to a new study, removing inflamed tonsils does not reduce infection rates (Photo courtesy of Shutterstock).
Image: According to a new study, removing inflamed tonsils does not reduce infection rates (Photo courtesy of Shutterstock).
Tonsillectomy does not provide a decrease in the number of post-operative visits for upper respiratory infection (URI), according to a new study.

Researchers at Hallym University (Chuncheon, Korea) and Seoul National University (Korea) used data from the Korean Health Insurance Review and Assessment Service, selecting 5,831 participants who underwent tonsillectomy for benign causes, such as chronic tonsillitis, chronic tonsillar hypertrophy, and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). The tonsillectomy participants were matched for age, group, sex, income group, region of residence, and number of pre-operative URI histories to 23,324 controls (a 1:4 ratio), who did not undergo tonsillectomy during the study period.

The results showed there was no difference between the tonsillectomy and control group during nine years of post-operative visits. In fact, URI visits gradually decreased from 5.5 visits every two years pre-operatively to 2.1 per year (at one year) and 1.4 per year (at nine years) in both the tonsillectomy and control groups. In a subgroup analysis comparing children to adolescents and adults, there was also no difference in the number of post-op visits for URI between the tonsillectomy and control groups. The study was published on December 30, 2016, in PLOS One.

“We believe that removing the tonsils is not an effective way to treat patients who present with mild recurrent sore throat. As children grow up, their immune systems come into maturity,” concluded lead author Hyo Geun Choi, MD, of Hallym University, and colleagues. “This might be responsible for decreases that have been observed in the number of URIs reported during follow up periods between individuals who did or did not undergo tonsillectomy.”

Tonsillectomy is a 3,000-year-old surgical procedure in which the tonsils are removed from either side of the throat. The procedure is performed in response to cases of repeated occurrence of acute tonsillitis or adenoiditis, obstructive sleep apnea (OPA), nasal airway obstruction, snoring, or peritonsillar abscess. Tonsillectomy is often performed together with adenoidectomy, the surgical removal of the adenoids; this may be done for several reasons, including impaired breathing and chronic infections or earaches.

Related Links:
Hallym University
Seoul National University

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