A doctor examining a little boy's throat for infection, which many patients solve with tonsillectomies.

Do tonsillectomies get the job done?

More common in children than adults, tonsillectomies are performed to resolve tonsillitis or strep throat. The procedure also helps with breathing problems like snoring and sleep apnea. However, it’s a costly, as it removes the tonsils. Patients often undergo a tonsillectomy after dealing with several bouts of tonsillitis or throat infections. However, are they as effective as we think?

Why Are Tonsillectomies Are Being Called Into Question?

The Vanderbilt University Medical Center conducted an in-depth systematic review of four papers on the subject regarding tonsillectomies. This study focused on how effective the procedure was towards helping children with sleep-disordered breathing and throat infections.

“It’s probably the most comprehensive study in tonsillectomy literature ever done,” said investigator David Francis, M.D., M.S., assistant professor of Otolaryngology. “We determined the lay of the land of what’s known and what’s not known about this extremely common procedure.”

After a thorough review of the illness rates in children who have had tonsillectomies versus those who waited for the infection to resolve itself, they found that the benefits of this surgery may not be long term. Schools experienced a reduction in absences due to throat infections during the first year after most kids underwent surgery, but that benefit did not last over time.

More studies found that the surgery was effective at treating sleep-disordered breathing, the risk was minimal and only a small amount of patients needed readmission overtime. However, what the researchers could not find is if these benefits were long-term. Most of the studies that do research into tonsillectomies do not follow patients after a long period of time.

There were too many questions left unanswered for the researchers to make a defined conclusion. Still, this procedure is the best course of action for children who suffer from tonsillitis frequently. See an otolaryngologist to learn more about the procedure and if it is right for you or your children.