Experts Advice on Tonsil and Adenoid Removal in Kids

Tonsils are two small masses of lymphoid tissue in the throat, one on each side of the root of the tongue. Most adults has had their tonsils removed when they were kids. Tonsils are two round lumps in the back of the throat. Adenoids are high in the throat, just behind the nose and the roof of the mouth.

Tonsils and adenoids are part of the immune system and are often removed in childhood to treat chronic ear infections and obstructed breathing. However removal often occurs at ages when development of immune system is sensitive.

Having tonsils removed in childhood is supposed to end chronic earaches and breathing problems. However, according to reports, it can also increases risk of respiratory infections.

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Sean Byars at the University of Melbourne in Australia, lead researcher of a new study said;

“We found that long-term risks of diseases in particular respiratory, allergic and infectious diseases, were significantly increased after surgery up to 30 years of age.”

According to the researchers, those respiratory diseases include asthma and pneumonia.

The team concluded that considering these higher odds for certain illnesses, it’s wise to consider long-term health before removing a child’s tonsils and adenoids.

“Our study tends to suggest that, when possible, it might be better for long-term health to avoid these surgeries in childhood,” said Byars.

For the research, the authors examined Danish health records, following more than 60,000 children who had tonsils removed, adenoids removed or both (“adenotonsillectomy”) before age 10. The investigators compared the medical records with data on 1.2 million peers born between 1979 and 1999.

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When they examined conditions these surgeries intend to treat, the long-term results were diverse.

They noted that tonsillitis and sleep disorders were greatly reduced after tonsils and adenoids were removed. However others, such as sinusitis, increased up to age 30, Byars said.

After tonsil or adenoid removal, the scientists noted a two- to three-times increase in diseases of the upper respiratory tract. They identified smaller increases in risks for infectious and allergic diseases.

Following adenotonsillectomy, the risk for infectious diseases rose 17 percent. However, the odds that a particular person’s risk would rise, rose only slightly more than 2 percent, the research team said. This is because these conditions are so common in the general population.

“This study provides much needed longer-term foresight on disease risks,” Byars said.

The report was published online June 7 in JAMA Otolaryngology–Head & Neck Surgery.

Although the study urges attention before scheduling surgery, Byars pointed out that it’s not always feasible to avoid the operations. “That is not possible when conditions these surgeries treat are chronic or recurrent,” he said.

Dr. Michael Grosso is chair of pediatrics and chief medical officer at Northwell Health Huntington Hospital in Huntington, N.Y. He said that this study cannot prove that the operations caused problems for years to come.

“As it happens, children with large tonsils and adenoids typically have exactly the kinds of conditions that would be described as respiratory, infectious or allergic — not as a consequence of operation, but as a pre-existing cause of the very condition that led to the surgery,” he said.

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Grosso agreed the decision to operate should be carefully considered.

Dr. Richard Rosenfeld, chairman of otolaryngology at SUNY Downstate Medical Center in New York City, said the findings are provocative.

But he agreed with Grosso that it isn’t certain that surgery itself caused these later conditions.

For children who need their tonsils or adenoids removed because of breathing problems, this study would not be a reason to withhold surgery, said Rosenfeld.

Disclaimer: The content is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical doctor or healthcare professional.

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