Taste disturbance following tonsillectomy--a prospective study

Laryngoscope. 2010 Oct;120(10):2119-24. doi: 10.1002/lary.20971.


Objectives/hypothesis: Persistent taste disturbance is a rare complication after tonsillectomy and mainly documented by case reports or a few retrospective and prospective trials with a limited number of patients. None could clarify frequency, time course, or prognosis of long-lasting dysgeusia after tonsillectomy. The aim of the study was to provide a symptom-based follow-up after tonsillectomy to assess postoperative taste disorders.

Study design: Prospective clinical trial.

Methods: From December 2007 to June 2009 adult patients undergoing tonsillectomy were asked to take part in the trial. Two hundred twenty-three patients (119 female, 104 male; mean age, 33 ± 13 years) were included. The day prior to surgery, and 2 weeks and 6 months after tonsillectomy a standardized questionnaire was completed by patients. The questionnaire focused on taste function, taste disorders, pain, foreign body sensation, and bleeding episodes after tonsillectomy.

Results: One hundred eighty-eight (2 weeks) and 181 (6 months) patients returned the questionnaires. Thirty-two percent (n = 60) of patients reported taste disorders after tonsillectomy 2 weeks postoperatively and 15 patients (8%) at 6-month follow-up. Metallic and bitter parageusia were most frequently reported. The mean ratings of gustatory function were significantly lower 2 weeks after surgery (P < .001) and reached preoperative values 6 months after surgery. Almost 30% of patients reported postoperative bleeding, 10% long-lasting postoperative pain, and 20% foreign body sensation.

Conclusions: Long-lasting taste disturbance (metallic and bitter parageusia) after tonsillectomy is more frequent than previously reported. Long-lasting pain and foreign body sensation seem to be common symptoms. With regard to these results, a thorough preoperative explanation is mandatory.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Taste Disorders / etiology*
  • Tonsillectomy / adverse effects*