Role of information available over the internet: what are the parents of children undergoing tonsillectomy likely to find?

Ann R Coll Surg Engl. 2008 Oct;90(7):601-5. doi: 10.1308/003588408X318129. Epub 2008 Aug 12.


Introduction: The aim of this study was to assess the quality of information available on the world wide web to parents of children undergoing tonsillectomy.

Materials and methods: The main data source was from internet searches using the five most popular search engines and the keyword 'tonsillectomy' with default settings. The first 50 web links in each search were evaluated with the LIDA Instrument (assessing accessibility, usability and reliability criteria). We also assessed the readability of the sites using the Flesch reading ease score (FRES).

Results: Of the 250 possible links, 113 new links were included the remaining being repetitions, inactive links or restricted access sites. The websites had an average accessibility score of 42/63 (66.7%; range, 26-57), a usability score of 29/54 (53.7%; range, 7-49), and a reliability score of 17/51 (33.3%; range, 0-49). The Flesch reading ease score was 43.8 (range, 3-84.4).

Conclusions: Health information available on the internet varies greatly. Highly ranked websites on popular search engines may not be the most reliable. Overall, the websites had low scores for reliability, with poor engagability, content production and conflict of interest declaration. Patients should be given previously assessed references on the internet to prevent them being misled by inaccurate or commercially motivated information.

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Health Services Accessibility
  • Humans
  • Information Dissemination / methods*
  • Internet / standards*
  • Medical Informatics / standards*
  • Parents*
  • Patient Education as Topic / standards*
  • Quality Assurance, Health Care
  • Tonsillectomy*
  • United Kingdom