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Tonsillectomy Study Finds Best Way to Avoid Complications

Three common techniques all deemed safe, but one appeared safest, research shows

WEDNESDAY, June 2 (HealthDay News) -- A review of three common surgical techniques used in tonsillectomies and related procedures has pinpointed which method has the lowest level of complications.

Doctors perform an estimated 530,000 adenotonsillectomies (in which the adenoids and tonsils are removed) on children in the United States each year. But there's no agreement on the best surgical method to use, and complications such as bleeding and dehydration can occur, as can painful swallowing, fever and ear pain.

In the new study, researchers examined the medical records of 4,776 patients who underwent adenoidectomy (removal of the adenoids), tonsillectomy, or adenotonsillectomy over a period of 36 months.

The three techniques are known as microdebrider (which uses a cutting tool to shave tissue), coblation (which uses radiofrequency energy), or electrocautery (which uses an electrically heated metal probe).

The microdebrider had the lowest rate of complications at 0.7 percent, followed by coblator at 2.8 percent and electrocautery at 3.1 percent, according to the report published in the June issue of the journal Otolaryngology -- Head and Neck Surgery.

"Questions will remain regarding what is the best procedure," study author Dr. Craig S. Derkay, said in a news release. "However, an important point is that no matter which surgical technique was used for removal of the tonsils in the study, our results demonstrate an acceptable level of safety across all procedures."

More information

The Nemours Foundation has more on tonsils and tonsillectomies.

-- Randy Dotinga

SOURCE: American Academy of Otolaryngology -- Head and Neck Surgery, news release, June 2, 2010

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