Purpose: Adult tonsillectomy is a common surgical procedure that is accompanied by masked postoperative pain. Analgesics are usually only partially effective, and the use of narcotics such as codeine is often poorly tolerated because of associated nausea. Because the pain associated with tonsillectomy is believed to arise from the large areas of exposed parapharyngeal muscle, we hypothesized that acellular dermal grafting of the peritonsillar fossa, providing biologic coverage to these areas, would result in a notable reduction of postoperative pain.
Materials and methods: We did a double-blind, prospective study, with 10 adult patients undergoing electrodissection tonsillectomy concurrently with grafting of 1 peritonsillar fossa with an acellular dermal graft (ADG) (AlloDerm, LifeCell Corp, The Woodlands, TX), whereas the other side of the throat received no treatment and was designated as the control side. Patients were examined on postoperative days 1, 7, and 14, and completed pain questionnaires on postoperative days 1, 3, 5, 7, and 14.
Results: ADG grafting of the peritonsillar fossa resulted in a statistically significant reduction in pain (by approximately 50%) on postoperative days 1, 3, 5, and 7, compared with the control side. Two patients experienced partial graft sloughing within the first 10 postoperative days, but no other untoward effects such as bleeding, graft aspiration, or infection, were associated with ADG of the peritonsillar fossa.
Conclusions: This study suggests that AlloDerm grafting of the peritonsillar fossa is a potentially useful, alternative means of reducing pain in the adult tonsillectomy patient and has potential use in reconstruction of oropharyngeal defects. Because of the cost of the graft, we suggest its use in selected difficult adult cases, but not as part of routine adult tonsillectomy.