Tonsillectomy for recurrent sore throats in children: indications, outcomes, and efficacy

Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2014 May;150(5):722-9. doi: 10.1177/0194599814522593. Epub 2014 Feb 11.


Objective: To perform a comprehensive narrative review of the literature to provide a better understanding of the indications, outcomes, and efficacy of tonsillectomy for recurrent sore throats in children. This article explores the reasons why there is a lack of robust clinical evidence for its efficacy despite good evidence of positive reported outcomes from parents of children who undergo the procedure.

Data sources: Articles published between 1960 and July 2013 were searched in PubMed and Cochrane databases.

Review methods: A narrative review method was adopted to provide a comprehensive overview of articles. Only individual, interventional studies on children (0-16 years old) undergoing tonsillectomy or adenotonsillectomy for recurrent sore throats with greater than 1 month of follow-up were included.

Conclusions: The inclusion criteria and outcome measures in the studies were varied, but most investigated changes in symptoms related to sore throats or illness episodes. Quality-of-life tools validated for measuring pediatric outcomes were used in a number of more recent studies. None of the outcome measures were specific for recurrent sore throats in children. No qualitative method designed studies were identified.

Implications for practice: The disparity between parental satisfaction rates and published clinical efficacy can be explained by a lack of parent/child outcome measures specific to tonsillectomy for recurrent sore throats. A more parent/child-centered approach may establish what tonsillectomy could offer this group of children.

Keywords: efficacy; indications; outcome measures; quality of life; tonsillectomy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adenoidectomy
  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Outcome and Process Assessment, Health Care*
  • Pharyngitis / surgery*
  • Quality of Life
  • Recurrence
  • Tonsillectomy*