When I was in grade school, it seemed as if nearly every kid would miss a week of school to have their tonsils removed. They would return to school bragging about their recovery spent eating ice cream, drinking milkshakes, and watching cartoons. I can almost acutely recall being jealous of these classmates. After reading new research that evaluates the long-term health risks of tonsillectomies, I realized maybe I shouldn’t have been quite so jealous!
Tonsils are located at the back of the throat. These are knobs of tissue with one located on either side. Tonsils are part of the lymphatic system which works to clear infections and keep the balance between body fluids. Specifically, the tonsils, in concert with the adenoids, work by preventing germs from coming in through the mouse and nose.
A tonsillectomy is a procedure to remove the tonsils. This is typically recommended for those that suffer from recurrent infections of the tonsils or when the tonsils are enlarged enough that they obstruct breathing. For adults, the tonsils are occasionally removed when there is concern for a tumor.
Over half a million tonsillectomies are performed annually in the United States but little research has been done to determine the long-term health risks associated with this procedure. A new study released by the University of Melbourne is the first to look at potential risks. Their results suggest that individuals who undergo a tonsillectomy are at 3x the risk of their counterparts for diseases of the upper respiratory tract such as asthma, influenza, pneumonia and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease – COPD.
Read the entire study findings to learn more.