Tonsillectomy and hematologic malignancy: Should routine pediatric tonsillectomy specimens be sent to pathology?

Int J Pediatr Otorhinolaryngol. 2021 Dec:151:110924. doi: 10.1016/j.ijporl.2021.110924. Epub 2021 Sep 27.


Objectives: Routine pediatric tonsillectomy ± adenoidectomy (T ± A) is one of the most common procedures for children worldwide, accounting for approximately 2000 procedures per year at our institution. To determine the utility of pathologic analysis of routine, nonsuspicious pediatric tonsil specimens, we investigated the incidence of hematologic and lymphoid malignancy diagnosed at the time of or following T ± A.

Methods: Retrospective review of patients 0-18 years undergoing T ± A between 2012 and 2020 with or without pathologic analysis.

Results: Included were 14,141 patients who underwent routine T ± A (mean age 11 ± 4.6 years, 48% female). Of these, tonsils of 2464 patients were sent to pathology, where zero were found to harbor malignancy. Seven patients (0.050%) developed malignancy after T ± A. Of these, 4 had unremarkable tonsils per pathology, and 3 did not have tonsils analyzed. There were 5 cases of Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL, 0.035%), 1 case of Acute Myeloid Leukemia (0.007%), and 1 case of Lymphoma (0.007%). The average length of time from T ± A to diagnosis was 2.4 ± 1.8 years.

Conclusion: No cases of occult malignancy were identified in specimens from routine T ± A with pathologic analysis, even among patients who later developed malignancy. This study suggests that sending routine pediatric T ± A specimens for formal pathologic analysis is an inefficient use of resources without appreciably improving the quality and safety of patient care.

Keywords: Malignancy; Pathology; Pediatric; Tonsillectomy.

MeSH terms

  • Adenoidectomy
  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Female
  • Hematologic Neoplasms* / diagnosis
  • Hematologic Neoplasms* / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Palatine Tonsil / surgery
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Tonsillectomy* / adverse effects