Tonsillectomy Might Be Worth It for Some Adults
Finnish study found fewer sore throats after surgery, less time lost from work or school
Of those who had a tonsillectomy, 4 percent saw a doctor for a sore throat compared with 43 percent who didn't have the procedure. In addition, 80 percent of patients who didn't have their tonsils out had an acute sore throat compared with 39 percent who had had tonsillectomies, the researchers noted.
"Tonsillectomy resulted in fewer symptoms of pharyngitis, consequently decreasing the number of medical visits and days absent from school or work. For this reason, surgery may benefit some patients," Koskenkorva said.
During the six-month follow-up period, people who had tonsillectomy had a lower overall rate of sore throats and significantly fewer days with throat pain, fever, cold or cough than participants who didn't undergo the procedure, the study found.
However, the surgery prevented mostly mild sore throats, which were most likely caused by a virus, Koskenkorva said. So before having the surgery, which is done under general anesthesia, patients and their doctors should consider complications and whether the benefits outweigh the risk of the operation, he suggested.
One risk of tonsillectomy is bleeding. Dahl, the New York specialist, said that adults, because their tonsils tend to be very infected, can bleed more. "It's just a little bit of a bloodier surgery," she explained.
"There are less painful and less risky ways of doing the surgery now," she added. These include shaving away the tonsils and laser procedures.
The recovery from traditional surgery can cause pain and difficulty swallowing for up to 10 days. Dahl said one patient told her "it's worse than childbirth without anesthesia." Recovery from other methods is shorter and less painful, she noted.