Tonsillectomy in children

Dtsch Arztebl Int. 2008 Dec;105(49):852-60; quiz 860-1. doi: 10.3238/arztebl.2008.0852. Epub 2008 Dec 5.


Introduction: Tonsillectomy is one of the most frequently performed surgical interventions in children. In the following, indications, preoperative evaluation, surgical techniques and postoperative complications will be discussed.

Methods: Literature search in PubMed (National Library of Medicine) focusing on publications in German or English up to June 2008.

Results: Indications are selected infectious diseases, upper airway obstruction for example due to tonsillar hypertrophy, and a suspected malignancy. Viral infections of the tonsils without upper airway obstruction are not an indication for surgery; in the case of acute bacterial tonsillitis, tonsillectomy is no longer recommended. In recurrent tonsillitis, tonsillectomy is only effective in specific and narrow indications. The indication for tonsillectomy in sleep-disordered breathing due to adenotonsillar hypertrophy has to be based on clinical assessment, medical history, and a sleep history. The most relevant risk factors are obstructive sleep apnea and coagulation disorders. A standardized history regarding hemostasis and bleeding is mandatory, and is superior to routine coagulation tests. Postoperative bleeding is still the most relevant complication of tonsillectomy and is always an emergency situation.

Conclusion: Tonsillectomy is one of the most frequently performed interventions in children but should be considered with care, as life-threatening complications can occur.

Keywords: bleeding; coagulation disorders; complications; sleep apnea; tonsillectomy.