Introduction and aim: Tonsillectomy is one of the most commonly performed surgical procedures in children; its main indications are recurrent episodes of acute tonsillitis and adenotonsillar hypertrophy. The effectiveness of tonsillectomy for severe recurrent tonsillitis is generally accepted; however its socio-economic cost is less well investigated. This study aims to determine and compare the societal cost of a tonsillectomy and a severe throat infection.
Materials and methods: The costs for both tonsillectomy and severe throat infection were evaluated. Costs of the surgical procedure and hospital stay were calculated based on resource use and personnel input at the participating hospital. The cost of work-related disability for both treatments was measured based on a questionnaire filled in by 275 parents of children undergoing a tonsillectomy. Data from two Belgian institutions (NIS and FOD) were used to calculate the cost of parents' absenteeism.
Results: An episode of acute tonsillitis in the child results in a longer period of parents' work absenteeism (mean of 3.1 +/- 0.3 days) compared to tonsillectomy (2.2 +/- 0.2 days). The cost of economic productivity loss amounts to 613 Euros (NIS) or 759 Euros (FOD) for acute tonsillitis and 435 Euros (NIS) or 539 Euros (FOD) for a tonsillectomy. The medical costs linked to the surgical procedure at the local department correspond to 535 Euros and for an acute tonsillitis to 46 Euros.
Conclusions: From societal perspective, a tonsillectomy costs the equivalent of 1.4 times the cost of a severe throat infection. This indicates that in children suffering from recurrent acute tonsillitis, watchful waiting results in a higher cost compared to tonsillectomy, given the cumulative costs of parents' absenteeism.