Background: Tonsillectomy is one of the most commonly performed surgical procedures. There are several operative methods currently in use, but the superiority of one over another has not been clearly demonstrated.
Objectives: To assess the effectiveness of coblation tonsillectomy compared with other surgical techniques in reducing morbidity.
Search strategy: We searched the Cochrane Ear, Nose and Throat Disorders Group Trials Register, the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) (The Cochrane Library Issue 4, 2006), MEDLINE (1966 to 2006) and EMBASE (1974 to 2006). The date of the last search was December 2006.
Selection criteria: Randomised controlled trials of children and adults undergoing tonsillectomy by means of coblation compared with any other surgical technique for removal of the tonsils. Trials were assessed for methodological quality according to the method outlined in the Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions 4.2.6.
Data collection and analysis: Data were extracted using standardised data extraction forms. Authors were contacted where additional data were required.
Main results: Nineteen studies were identified with sufficient data for further assessment. Four of these were excluded because intra-capsular tonsillectomy (i.e. tonsillotomy) rather than sub-capsular tonsillectomy was performed, and a further five studies because tonsils rather than participants were randomised. One further study was excluded because, although describing itself as a randomised trial, its participants turned out not to have been randomised to their intervention groups. Nine trials met the inclusion criteria, comparing coblation to other tonsillectomy techniques. All but two studies were of low quality and therefore a meta-analytical approach was not appropriate. In most studies, when considering most outcomes, there was no significant difference between coblation and other tonsillectomy techniques.
Authors' conclusions: In terms of postoperative pain and speed and safety of recovery, there is inadequate evidence to determine whether coblation tonsillectomy is better or worse than other methods of tonsillectomy. Evidence from a large prospective audit suggests that it has been associated with a higher level of morbidity, in terms of postoperative bleeding. Large, well-designed randomised controlled trials supplemented by data from large prospective audits are needed to produce information on effectiveness and morbidity respectively.