Tonsil and Adenoid Diseases

The tonsils and adenoids are lymphatic tissue situated in the back of the nose and mouth.  They aid in the immune response to certain organisms such as bacteria and viruses. Frequent infections, however, can overwhelm their processing ability and make them ineffective in their activity. As such, they can cause illness in certain individuals. Tonsillectomy (and adenoidectomy) are performed for a number of different reasons, but sleep disordered breathing and recurrent infections are the two most common reasons. While the frequency of tonsillectomy in the treatment of throat infections has declined over the years, more tonsillectomies are performed today because the frequency of tonsillectomy for treatment of sleep disordered breathing in children has increased substantially. Today a tonsillectomy is performed about 500,000 times a year in children under the age of 15 in the United States.

Sleep disordered breathing represents a range of disorders varying from snoring to sleep apnea. About 10% of children snore, while 1-4% of children have sleep apnea.  Approximately 40% of children with some degree of sleep disordered breathing will exhibit behavioral problems including agitation, inability to concentrate, enuresis, and depression. Obstructive sleeping patterns can also interfere with appropriate hormone responses and can be a reason for growth retardation.

Rates of throat infections for which a tonsillectomy would be appropriate are approximately 7 infections in a year, or five infections a year for two years, or three infections a year for more than two years. Modifying factors such as the severity of the infections, their duration, and associated quality of life alterations may influence these approximations to some degree. Studies have shown that removal of tonsil tissue has reduced the frequency and severity of throat infections for a period of two years following surgery.  These children have also required fewer courses of antibiotics and fewer physician visits during that time frame as well. Side effects of tonsillectomy include pain, poor intake of food and drink, anesthetic risks, bleeding, and rarely death.

If your family physician has recommended that you see an ENT specialist to properly diagnose and treat tonsil and adenoid disease, please call the number above or use our appointment request form.