June 25, 2012

Go to Camp, Visit Grandma, Get Tonsils Removed

Tonsillectomy a Common Theme in Summer Activities

MELROSE PARK, Ill. - Scheduling a tonsillectomy is a part of many parents’ plans for their children’s summer vacation, right up there with summer camp stays and family reunions. An estimated 500,000 children have the procedure each year.

“Kids need from 10 days to two weeks’ recovery time, so summer offers an ideal opportunity to get tonsil removal out of the way without interfering with school or winter holidays,” said Dr. Laura Cozzi, otolaryngologist, Gottlieb Memorial Hospital, part of Loyola University Health System (LUHS).  Dr. Cozzi sees a jump in her surgeries at the Gottlieb campus beginning in June and settling back down in August.

“Improving breathing, eliminating snoring and reducing colds and ear infections are usually the reasons for having tonsils removed – usually nothing life-threatening or urgent so the surgery can be arranged when it is most convenient,” Dr. Cozzi said.

Sleep disturbances are the most common reason for tonsillectomies in children, as well as in adults.  “Enlarged tonsils and adenoids prevent proper air flow, leading to frequent waking during sleep and also loud snoring,” Dr. Cozzi said.

“This lack of healthful sleep can cause irritability, poor performance in school and even in very rare cases, developmental delays.” The rate of tonsillectomies among girls is twice that of boys, while rates of adenoidectomies is about 1.5 times as high in boys as girls.

The most common age for tonsil removal is between 3 and 7.

“Tonsils usually shrink between the ages of 7 and 8. If they don’t, many parents of these school-age children want them removed to prevent existing or recurring health problems,” she said.

Tonsils are lymph tissue in the throat that helps to fight infections. People actually have three sets of tonsils; the set of tonsils visible in the back of the throat are removed as well as the adenoids, which are also located in the back of the nose and are not visible. “Tonsils and adenoids become enlarged due to chronic infections,” Dr. Cozzi said. “Tonsils are graded in size from 1 to 4, with the largest commonly called ‘kissing tonsils’ because they are so large they bump each other.” The larger tonsils often produce a “husky” sounding voice, and children, in addition to snoring, may have trouble swallowing certain foods. The tonsils are removed with a scalpel, a heated instrument or a coblator, in an outpatient surgery.

“Many parents remember staying in a hospital overnight as children after having tonsils removed but, today, the surgery takes about one hour and children go home to continue their recovery, which is less traumatic and preferred by parents and young patients,” Dr. Cozzi said. A tonsillectomy is the most common major surgery in children.

Here are tips from Dr. Cozzi that your child may need to have tonsils and/or adenoids removed:

  • Your child regularly breathes through his or her mouth
  • Loud snoring, movement, repeated awakening during sleep
  • Recurring ear infections or sore throats, which often lead to greater likelihood of susceptibility to other illnesses
  • Persistent runny nose, cough or other sign of a cold
  • Debris often trapped or caught in tonsil pockets, creating “white spots” or foul odor
  • Visibly large tonsils

“While eating lots of ice cream is often cited by parents to their children as an encouragement to having the surgery, it is really more important that lots of liquids be consumed, to avoid dehydration,” Dr. Cozzi said. “But my patients like the idea that they can watch TV, play video games and surf the Net more than usual, during their recovery.”

About Loyola Medicine and Trinity Health

Loyola Medicine, a member of Trinity Health, is a quaternary care system based in the western suburbs of Chicago that includes Loyola University Medical Center (LUMC), Gottlieb Memorial Hospital, MacNeal Hospital and convenient locations offering primary and specialty care services from 1,877 physicians throughout Cook, Will and DuPage counties. LUMC is a 547-licensed-bed hospital in Maywood that includes the William G. and Mary A. Ryan Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine, the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, a Level 1 trauma center, Illinois's largest burn center, a certified comprehensive stroke center and a children’s hospital. Having delivered compassionate care for over 50 years, Loyola also trains the next generation of caregivers through its teaching affiliation with Loyola University Chicago’s Stritch School of Medicine and Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing. Gottlieb is a 247-licensed-bed community hospital in Melrose Park with 150 physician offices, an adult day care program, the Gottlieb Center for Fitness, the Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery and Bariatric Care and the Loyola Cancer Care & Research at the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Center at Melrose Park. MacNeal Hospital is a 374-bed teaching hospital in Berwyn with advanced inpatient and outpatient medical, surgical and psychiatric services, advanced diagnostics and treatments. MacNeal has a 12-bed acute rehabilitation unit, a 25-bed inpatient skilled nursing facility, and a 68-bed behavioral health program and community clinics. MacNeal has provided quality, patient-centered care to the near west suburbs since 1919.

Trinity Health is one of the largest multi-institutional Catholic healthcare systems in the nation, serving diverse communities that include more than 30 million people across 22 states. Trinity Health includes 92 hospitals, as well as 109 continuing care locations that include PACE programs, senior living facilities and home care and hospice services. Its continuing care programs provide nearly 2.5 million visits annually. Based in Livonia, Mich., and with annual operating revenues of $18.3 billion and assets of $26.2 billion, the organization returns $1.1 billion to its communities annually in the form of charity care and other community benefit programs. Trinity employs about 129,000 colleagues, including 7,800 employed physicians and clinicians. Committed to those who are poor and underserved in its communities, Trinity is known for its focus on the country's aging population. As a single, unified ministry, the organization is the innovator of Senior Emergency Departments, the largest not-for-profit provider of home health care services—ranked by number of visits—in the nation, as well as the nation’s leading provider of PACE (Program of All Inclusive Care for the Elderly) based on the number of available programs.