Routine pathologic examination of tonsillectomy specimens: A 10-year experience at a tertiary care children's hospital

Int J Pediatr Otorhinolaryngol. 2017 Nov:102:86-89. doi: 10.1016/j.ijporl.2017.09.012. Epub 2017 Sep 14.


Objective: To review histopathologic diagnoses from tonsillectomy specimens and determine whether routine pathologic exam is necessary.

Methods: Pathology reports of patients undergoing tonsillectomy from 2005 to 2014 at our pediatric tertiary care hospital were reviewed. Histopathologic diagnoses were recorded with special attention to identification of malignancy.

Results: A total of 8807 paired tonsil specimens were sent to pathology over a 10-year course. Gross analysis was performed on all. Microscopic histopathologic analysis was performed on 612 (6.95%) specimens with all but one demonstrating strictly reactive lymphoid hyperplasia. The single specimen (0.16%) demonstrated follicular hyperplasia with focal necrotizing granulomatous lymphadenitis without organisms identified on special staining. The surgeon requested pathologic diagnosis to rule out lymphoma in 4 of 8087 (0.05%) of the specimens. No malignancies were identified. The approximate charges for gross examination of a paired tonsillectomy specimen and microscopic examination were $136.10 and $294.54, respectively. Over the 10 year period of the study, total charges were estimated at $1,115,340 (gross) and $180,258 (microscopic).

Discussion: Microscopic analysis of tonsil specimens is unlikely to identify abnormal pathology that changes patient management. This study suggests that neither gross nor microscopic pathologic examination of tonsillectomy specimens is necessary on a routine basis. Histologic analysis of tonsils should be requested only on a case by case basis when clinical suspicion for malignancy is high. Avoiding routine pathologic exam of tonsils may be cost effective and medically safe.

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Female
  • Hospitals, Pediatric
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Palatine Tonsil / pathology*
  • Pathology, Surgical / economics
  • Pathology, Surgical / statistics & numerical data*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Tertiary Healthcare
  • Tonsillectomy / statistics & numerical data*