Think back to your own childhood. Chances are you had more than a few friends who had their tonsils removed. Maybe you had your tonsils removed. Now that you're a parent, you're wondering if your little one will need a tonsillectomy at some point in their childhood.
When your child is repeatedly sick, you start worrying. That's completely normal. With every sore throat and swollen tonsil you wonder, "Is it time for a tonsillectomy yet?" After all, you don't want your child to suffer if they don't have to.
Before making the decision, understanding the, what's and why's of having your child's tonsils removed is absolutely essential. Obviously, the doctor is the person to see when you're in doubt about this (or any other medical) matter. But, you don't want to go into the appointment without any information. Knowing a few facts about tonsils and tonsillectomies can help you to ask the right questions and make a decision that benefits your child.
Tonsils and Their Function
What are tonsils anyways? You know that they're those bumps in the back of your throat. You have two, one on each side, and sometimes they swell and hurt. But, you might not be completely sure why they're in your throat or what they do for your body.
Tonsils help your body to fight off disease. They make white blood cells and defend against outside intruders – such as viruses and bacteria. Even though it seems like something that makes disease-fighting cells would (or should) stay illness-free, the immune function of tonsils tends to make them more vulnerable to infections.
Reasons for Tonsillectomies
There isn't always one reason why a doctor wants a child to have their tonsils removed. This surgical procedure is done for several different reasons. But, these reasons haven't always been the same. There's been a change in why children have their tonsils removed. A few decades ago (roughly 30 years ago) 90% of tonsillectomy procedures were done because children had repeated infections. After having tonsillitis time and time again, doctors would decide just to remove the tonsils.
The same can't be said for modern doctors. The majority of tonsillectomies, that is 80%, are done for obstructive sleep problems. Only 20% of these procedures are now done for infections, according to the American Academy of Otolaryngology -- Head and Neck Surgery.
When it comes down to it, a tonsillectomy isn't done just because. A few sore throats and an infection here and there aren't enough to warrant a tonsillectomy. But, constant chronic and sever tonsillitis, complications (such as obstructions) that arise from infections, chronic bleeding and some diseases are causes to consider a tonsillectomy.
Children and Tonsillitis
It's not likely that you know many people who've had their tonsils removed as adults. Typically, you see children having tonsillectomies. Why is this? Your child's immune system is as developed as yours. That's okay. It's normal and just part of human development. But, it does make your child more vulnerable to illnesses, such as tonsillitis.
Keep in mind, even though children tend to make up a larger percentage of people having tonsillectomies, adults can have them too.
Even though tonsillectomies are on the decline, they are still one of the most common surgical procedures for children. There are roughly 500,000 tonsillectomies done each year in the U.S. The actual surgical procedure is relatively short – taking only about 20 to 30 minutes. Your child will need general anesthesia, so they will sleep through the whole process. There are several different method that surgeons use, including electrocautery (using heat), cold knife dissection (using a scalpel), harmonic scalpel (cutting the tonsils while stopping the bleeding with ultrasonic vibrations) and radiofrequency methods.
When it comes down to it, the decision whether to get a tonsillectomy or not depends on your child's individual case, the doctor's assessment and what's best for the specific situation. If your child is having recurrent tonsil issues, call Ear, Nose & Throat Associates of Savannah, P.C. at 912-351-3030 for an appointment.