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Tonsillectomy improves sleep quality in children

Tonsillectomy improves sleep quality in children

Tonsillectomy or tonsil removal surgery is the third most common surgery among children. According to the American Academy of Otolaryngology, more than 530,000 procedures are performed each year on children under the age of 15. According to Dr. Christopher Witt, MD, ENT and head and neck surgeon at Camp Hill Hospital in Pennsylvania “although your tonsils are part of your immune system and they produce antibodies, you don’t need them”. Dr. Witt explains, “In theory tonsils should help you fight infections, but if they were a significant part of your defence, you would expect to see immunologic problems after the procedure, and this is not the case.”

However, there are several reasons why you might want to remove them. “The first reason we remove tonsils in children is for problems with sleep-disordered breathing or obstructed-sleep apnoea — problems caused by the size of the tonsils and adenoids” he said. “They can cause breathing difficulties, snoring, nasal constriction and keep you from getting quality sleep.”

Research has shown that tonsillectomies had a positive impact on other problems faced by children with sleep disorders, such as negative behaviour, poor performance in school and bedwetting, said Dr. Bernadette Braze, ENT and head and neck surgeon at Carlisle Center in Pennsylvania. “Those children who can’t sleep well at night, can’t think well at school and are sometimes falling asleep in class”, said Dr. Bernadette Braze.

Tonsil infection or tonsillitis is another common reason for tonsillectomies among children. Guidelines from American Academy of Otolaryngology call for removing tonsils if the child has seven or more episodes of throat infection in one year, five or more episodes annually in the past two years or three or more infections annually for three years.

“The removal of tonsils, which might also include adenoids, is done under general anaesthesia and takes less than 45 minutes”, said Witt. The improvement in the instruments used to remove tonsils has resulted in better recovery. "Previously, ENT doctors used an electrocautery device that removed the tonsils by cutting and sealing the tissue, to prevent bleeding, at a very high temperature that could cause a burn injury”, said Witt. Now, ENT doctors have a new radiofrequency technology that cuts and seals tissue at low temperatures, thus decreasing the patient discomfort.

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