Tonsil Removal May Affect Breathing

Sleep studies reveal breathing complications after tonsil surgery in children

January 19, 2011 / Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

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(dailyRx News) Sleep studies are being used to study children who have undergone tonsil and adenoid removal surgery to detect possible respiratory complications.

Most children will experience a bout of tonsillitis which can commonly be dealt with fairly easily with antibiotics. However, in chronic cases of tonsil and adenoid infection, they may need to be removed. Children who undergo "adenotonsillectomy" (removal of the tonsils and adenoids) are at risk of developing breathing complications after the surgery.

While it is generally a simple out-patient surgery, certain criteria need to be met. Children must be older than 3 years old and show no signs of obstructive sleep apnea-hypopnea syndrome in which the upper airway becomes obstructed and breathing becomes minimized during sleep.

Researchers identified over a thousand children who underwent removal of their adenoids and tonsils and performed a sleep study on 151 of them. Twenty-three of these children showed signs of impaired breathing, primarily related to apnea-hypopnea.

About 48 percent of those found to have respiratory problems post-surgery were also obese. These patients ended up having to spend 22 additional days in the hospital for treatment. The authors of the study hope that further sleep studies will be useful in determining which children are at risk of developing post-operative breathing problems.