News Release

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Contact: Nancy Chapman (757) 668-7028 Nancy.Chapman@chkd.org

CHKD surgeon helps formulate U.S. tonsillectomy guidelines

NORFOLK, Va. –- Every year more than a half million children under 15 get their tonsils out, but that number may soon drop based on new guidelines just announced by the American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery.

CHKD surgeon David H. Darrow, MD, DDS, served on the academy’s multi-disciplinary panel that issued the first official recommendations on tonsillectomy ever published in the U.S.

“When it comes to severe throat infections,” Dr. Darrow says, “we’ve learned that watchful waiting is best for most children.”

He explains that the new guidelines advise performing a tonsillectomy on children who have more than seven throat infections in a year, more than five a year in the past two years, or more than three a year over the past three years. “And those infections should be documented by a doctor rather than just reported by parents.”

The idea, he notes, is to reserve the procedure for the most severely affected. As with any surgery, a tonsillectomy can, although rarely, have serious complications.

Children with less frequent or severe throat infections may still benefit from the surgery if there are modifying factors, including sleep-disordered breathing. Snoring, mouth breathing, and obstructive sleep apnea can be caused by large tonsils and may improve with a tonsillectomy.

Despite that the tonsillectomy is the third most common surgery for children, until this study was published, no evidence-based national guidelines existed.

CHKD is the only freestanding children’s hospital in Virginia and serves the medical and surgical needs of children throughout greater Hampton Roads, the Eastern Shore of Virginia and northeastern North Carolina. The not-for-profit hospital was founded in 1961 and last year handled 5,835 inpatient admissions and 204,000 outpatient specialty, surgical and emergency room visits, addressing routine and complex illnesses, injuries and chronic conditions. CHKD Health System operates primary-care pediatric practices, surgical practices, multi-service Health Centers and satellite offices throughout its service region.