Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Children's Health

Font Size

Taking Out Tonsils With Less Pain

Choice of Surgical Instrument May Make a Difference, Study Shows
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Jan. 27, 2006 -- Using a surgical device called a "coblator" to remove tonsils may lessen patients' postsurgery pain, a new study shows.

Researchers compared three different surgical devices for tonsil removal:

  • Electrocautery device: the most common instrument, which uses intense heat
  • Harmonic Ultrasonic Scalpel: uses vibrations of ultrasonic energy
  • Coblator device: passes a current through saltwater

The study included 134 patients who got their tonsils removed by one of those methods. The patients' diaries showed less pain and quicker return to normal diet.

Still, none of the methods was painless, write Stephen Parsons, MD, and colleagues. They work at Indiana University School of Medicine's department of otolaryngology -- head and neck surgery.

The study appears in Otolaryngology -- Head and Neck Surgery.

Bouncing Back

Patients were asked to keep diaries of their pain after tonsil surgery. Children could rate their pain by using a scale of smiling or sad faces.

Food intake, activity level, and phone calls to doctors were also tracked. Tonsil removal is common but often painful due to tissue damage around the tonsils that occurs during the removal process. Afterward, it can hurt to eat for several days, so many patients eat soft foods until they recover.

Within 10 days of tonsil removal, eight in 10 patients were eating normally and nine in 10 had resumed normal activities, Parson's study shows.

The coblation group had lower pain scores. The most follow-up calls to doctors were made by patients in the electrocautery group.

Real Difference?

More than half of participants didn't finish their pain diaries; their results weren't counted. All three groups had patients who dropped out of the study.

With a small group of patients, statistics can seem more important than they really are, note Parson and colleagues. They write that their results reached the lowest level for clinical significance. In other words, the difference in pain levels was small, not dramatic.

"As expected, none of the three surgical methods in this study resulted in a pain-free recovery," the researchers write.

"There are certainly other factors that alter pain aside from the surgical instrument used," they continue. Careful, gentle technique also counts, the doctors note.

Today on WebMD

child with red rash on cheeks
What’s that rash?
plate of fruit and veggies
How healthy is your child’s diet?
 
smiling baby
Treating diarrhea, fever and more.
Middle school band practice
Understanding your child’s changing body.
 

worried kid
fitArticle
boy on father's shoulder
Article
 
Child with red rash on cheeks
Slideshow
girl thinking
Article
 

babyapp
New
Child with adhd
Slideshow
 
rl with friends
fitSlideshow
Syringes and graph illustration
Tool
 
6-Week Challenges
Want to know more?
Chill Out and Charge Up Challenge – How to help your tribe de-stress and energize.
Spark Change Challenge - Ready for a healthy change? Get some major motivation.
I have read and agreed to WebMD's Privacy Policy.
Enter cell phone number
- -
Entering your cell phone number and pressing submit indicates you agree to receive text messages from WebMD related to this challenge. WebMD is utilizing a 3rd party vendor, CellTrust, to provide the messages. You can opt out at any time.
Standard text rates apply