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Medwatch: When and why tonsils are removed

Updated: May. 31, 2021 at 8:16 AM CDT
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LAWTON, Okla. (KSWO) - Around 400,000 tonsillectomies happen every year, according to an ear, nose & throat doctor at Comanche County Memorial Hospital. But why is that? Dr. James Rebik, an ear, nose, throat surgeon at CCMH, says multiple tonsil or throat infections in a year is one of the two main reasons why they’re removed.

“The second reason to take tonsils and adenoids out is if they’re so enlarged that they cause obstruction, and usually in the children, this will be manifested as snoring or restless sleeping pattern,” he said.

“It’s so important for children to get good, quality sleep,” said Candace Flournoy, nurse practitioner, ear, nose, throat at CCMH. “And if they’re snoring, they may not be getting that good, quality sleep that they need to be able to focus and to learn and to grow appropriately.”

Besides just sleep, it can also impact other aspects of the patient’s life.

“Sometimes tonsils can be so enlarged that they’ll almost tough the uvula,” Rebik said. “And that can cause changes in their vocal quality of difficulty swallowing food. It can sometimes be described as being a picky eater because their tonsils are so large it’s hard for them to swallow normal bites of food.”

As for how they get infected in the first place, Dr. Rebik said this.

“There are a lot of folds in the tonsils that trap that bacteria as well as bacteria trapped in the adenoids, so they can become infected,” he said.

Flournoy said that’s the opposite of what they’re supposed to be doing.

“The tonsils and adenoids both part of the lymph system,” Flournoy said. “So they’re a part of our immune system, and they should help to keep bacteria and viruses from affecting us.”

The surgery to get tonsils removed is the same-day surgery. To make the kiddos more comfortable, Dr. Rebik bought a Jeep that they can drive to the surgery area. It’s helped distract kids and ease any anxiety they may be having about the surgery. During the surgery, Dr. Rebik said he inspects the patient’s throat and looks at their adenoids.

“They can’t really be viewed when one is looking through the nose or the throat, but in surgery, we can look at them and see if they’re enlarged, and they can be removed,” Rebik said.

He said they’ll see the patient one or two weeks after surgery and doesn’t have to see them again unless they have another ear, nose, or throat problem.

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